SELECTMEN RACE Q&A: Candidates Discuss The Detox Facility Proposal At 362 Middlesex Ave

WILMINGTON, MA — Incumbents Greg Bendel and Kevin Caira, and challengers Rob Fasulo, Mark Maselli, Dan Murphy, and Suzanne Sullivan, are running for TWO three-year seats on the Wilmington Board of Selectmen.

Wilmington Apple is asking the candidates multiple questions each week leading up to the April 27 Town Election.

The latest question:

Do you/did you support the construction of a detox facility at 362 Middlesex Avenue? Why or why not? What do you say to residents who strongly disagree with your position?

Below are the candidates’ responses, in their own words:

Suzanne Sullivan

No I did not support the detox at 362 Middlesex. It was the wrong place to put a 24 hour, 7 day a week, two-story medical facility. I would say to people who disagree with my position that although I understand why a facility like this is needed, the use requires a special permit for a reason. It is understood in our by-laws that a medical facility can have an impact on the surrounding areas that are specific to it, and not to other types of commercial uses. Therefore, it is not a “by right use”, meaning the person proposing it does not have an absolute right to build one. This area of north Wilmington is still a nice neighborhood business district. It did not fit and would have impacted residents severely that were abutters because the cul-de-sac, another mis-matched feature, pushed the two-story large building right up against the neighborhood. There are no other 24/7 operations in this area, and for good reason. It would severely impact the surrounding residents. The commercial areas currently shut down by 10:00 pm, therefore not impacting the surrounding residential areas. I believe we can have what we want and still protect the residents if we make wise choices. I think the detox at this site was not a wise choice and did not protect the residents. I believe the residents should always come first and we should do whatever we can to make that the first priority.

Suzanne Sullivan
Suzanne Sullivan

Mark Maselli

When looking at any new site development, the first part of any plan is the layout and size of the structure that is compatible with its surroundings. In my opinion, the proposed structure size for the detox center at 362 Middlesex Ave. is too large for that lot and is not harmonious to the neighborhood that borders the plot of land. The size offers nothing but harm to the abutters along with the noise pollution that also comes with a facility that is run around the clock. In fact, I would not support any business located there to be run 24/7. The probability for disrupting the peace for the abutters is too great.

As we all know, the proposal was voted down by the Zoning Board of Appeals because of size. However, something that really bothered me was those that voted in FAVOR of the detox center. As I’ve mentioned, the proposed facility offers nothing for the quality of the neighborhoods, the abutters or the town. It is the job of the ZBA members to make the best choices for the town and all of its residents, and I believe that those members voting “yes” failed in this respect.

I once was given this advice, “When the ball is in your court, you don’t give it up.” Well, the ball was in our court and, sadly, we gave it up – the abutters got nothing but bushes that that will make no difference for years, if at all. We should be asking for the moon and settling for the sky – these abutters got the ground!

It really bothered me seeing the abutters asking for help, pleading for it, and getting nothing. The disruption to their neighborhood, the surrounding neighborhoods, and all the families is too great. They know what it is like to have a business in that lot, this is above and beyond that. This facility will drive their home values down, something that is most people’s biggest asset. It will make them uncomfortable in their own homes and not feel safe in their neighborhoods. I have yet to hear any rebuttals from the developers or the town on feasible ways to remedy any of this – because they can’t.

The patients in this facility can come and go at will and one doesn’t know what they may do if they are struggling and want to get their hands on alcohol or drugs. I will not claim to know first-hand what it’s like to have an addict in my family, however, we have a very close friend whose child is a recovering addict. I know what this child did to get money for drugs, including stealing from their own family. I know every story is different, but the threat of break-ins to homes and cars is there along with many other potential issues. This proposed detox center is a disservice to the abutters and frankly also to the addicts that would be in it as it is putting them in a surrounding that has temptations and makes it easy for them to relapse. We want to see those addicted succeed and find a better footing in life, not the opposite.

Put it this way: Nothing about putting this proposed detox facility at 362 Middlesex Ave. favors our community – it is detrimental.

What I say to the voters who disagree with me is: if you or someone in your family is struggling with addiction, would you want to look out the detox center windows and see a beer truck or signs for liquor on sale across the street – every day? Wouldn’t you want to be in a relaxing, peaceful environment instead of hearing trains go by numerous times during the day and night? If we want to help people with addictions, we should strive to provide them with the BEST environment for their recovery. An environment they will be comfortable in and surroundings that do not offer any temptations. As a community, we need to do our part in the opioid and addiction crisis that is hitting Wilmington and our nation so hard. I am not opposed to having a detox center in our town – in the right place – but I am vehemently against it being at 362 Middlesex Ave.

We need to ensure that the Wilmington community feels safe especially in their own neighborhoods and people struggling with addictions, looking for help, should get the right treatment at the right place. Putting a detox center at this location serves neither of those things.

Mark M
Mark Maselli

Rob Fasulo

No, I did not support the 362 Middlesex Ave. project and that was no secret. I established my position during the last election that I support the idea, but in a different location and if being run by a non-profit facility that could handle the medical side of detox without adding demand for the town’s EMS services. I proposed several times during the election and since on my Facebook page, that our town officials should actively seek out a non-profit hospital looking to expand their footprint and invite their representatives into Wilmington to see all the good Wilmington can offer them. We have vacant properties in several locations which fit zoning that do not abut residential neighborhoods and could accommodate up to and including, an emergency room or 24-hour facility that would be a first line of treatment for folks in our town in an emergency. This type of facility could also house a detox where patients would be treated under the purview of a medical doctor and emergencies could be handled in-house with minimal burdens placed on town emergency services. The proposal as presented had many flaws and the process the town took in an effort to get the project passed was questionable. As I said on many occasions, had any other resident took the plans presented by the applicant into Town Hall, it would not have passed the Building Department’s desk before being denied.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you were for or against the detox, the process the town took regarding the application had no basis in MA General Laws and the liability to the town was not even a concern for the current Board of Selectmen. We heard on many occasions that “The town is going to be sued, it is just a matter of by whom,” and we also heard town counsel say “ The case would be appealed based on discrimination.” When the Board of Selectmen was asked to have a discussion in private regarding derogatory statements made by the chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals at the January 13, 2016 ZBA meeting about the protected class, only one sitting member voted in favor of discussing this matter in executive session with town counsel. One does not need to be an attorney to figure out the argument that attorneys could use in any court action, based on his statement, and to what further extent these comments will cost further taxpayer money in litigation.

Finally, having a meeting with no authorization in the general laws granting the Zoning Board of Appeals authority, with the sole intention of over ruling a legal decision was chilling. How many folks reading this answer can say they have been denied a permit for a project and then, were granted a second “bite of the apple” attempt to get that project approved? I can answer that with, it’s never been done before, not in Wilmington and certainly not within the State of Massachusetts. Accommodations, when appropriate are granted by building inspectors, they are not tools attorneys have to override legal decisions made by local zoning boards.

The facts I laid out here are testimony to my desire to bring the power back to the residents of Wilmington. I am convinced that the reasons so many questionable actions took place during this process is based on who is involved and what money would have been made. It certainly wouldn’t have positively affected the neighborhood that the facility was being proposed in and I stand behind any resident who is faced with such a drastic project in their backyard

Fasulo

Kevin Caira

I did not support the construction of the proposed detoxification center at 362 Middlesex Avenue. I support the decision of the Board of Appeals to deny the permit and, in concurrence with my colleagues on the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager, have authorized Town Counsel to defend the Town against any appeal of that decision.

Do I believe that the Town would benefit from a fully certified medical facility for the treatment of individuals suffering from addiction…the answer is yes. I also believe in a fair and impartial governmental process that thoroughly considers any applicant’s proposal based upon its merits and in consideration of the impact such proposal would have on a neighborhood. I believe that this proposal was worthy of consideration and I applaud the applicant for his transparency, town boards and officials for their due diligence, and residents for their passion and willingness to participate in the governmental process. What was disappointing to me, however, was the eagerness of some to politicize what should have been an issue determined on its merits and not on its politics.

As elected officials, we have the responsibility to make lawful decisions that are beneficial to the Town, and in doing so, must give full consideration to the will of the residents. Although the Special Town Meeting rezoning merely shifted the “problem across the street” and did not eliminate the proposed site from consideration, it did make clear that the overwhelming number of residents attending the meeting opposed the siting of a detoxification center near to a residential neighborhood. The Board of Appeals gave due consideration to the sentiments of the neighbors and in the end, the process worked.

Kevin Caira
Kevin Caira

Greg Bendel

Over the past year I have heard arguments for and against this particular project. I listened carefully to different points of view, and watched all of the Board of Appeals meetings very closely to stay informed. It is important to note that as the appointing authority of the Board of Appeals, any lobbying of the Board of Appeals members by a Selectman could undermine the Board of Appeals’ decision. It could also put the Town at risk of a lawsuit by the applicant.

In general, I support the right of any proposed business that wants to come to Wilmington to go through the Town’s regulatory process. In the case of the proposed detox facility, the regulatory process included a review by numerous Town departments and public hearings before the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals, so that residents could give their input or voice concerns, and of course give the applicant the chance to state their case. The application for 362 Middlesex Ave was ultimately denied by the Board of Appeals and as their appointing authority, I support their decision. To those residents who disagree with my approach, and to those who agree, I would say the same thing. If the Board’s decision is challenged by the applicant, I will defend the Board of Appeals decision in consultation with counsel.

Selectman Greg Bendel
Greg Bendel

Dan Murphy

No response provided.

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One thought

  1. Kevin Caira “did not support” the detox, but he didn’t speak against the location either. He did nothing at all. Greg Bendel supports “the right of any proposed business that wants to come to Wilmington”…and that includes a business that wants to help Olin avoid its obligation to clean up the contaminated groundwater by helping a business that is partnered with New England Transrail. This is not an appropriate thought process for a Selectman that is going to be sitting on the Economic Development Committee. The purpose of the Economic Development Committee is to tell businesses what is appropriate (or not appropriate) for certain businesses based on our Town By-Laws. Greg is a nice guy, but sometimes the nicest thing you can do is be upfront and tell a business; No, your proposal is not appropriate for this location. No business owner wants to find out after 18 months of applications to the Town that they can’t open their business at a location, the Town should tell them on day 1 not day 500.

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