By Kate Anslinger
A massive number of concerned residents turned out last Wednesday night to talk about the potential use of the old Gov. Winthrop Nursing Home at 142 Pleasant Street as a methadone clinic.
Councilor Russ Sanford set up the meeting after rumors came to a head about the use of the old building. Due to the higher than expected turnout of concerned residents, the meeting was moved from the EB Newton School to the Arthur T. Cummings school cafeteria to accommodate the crowd.
“This is the biggest outpouring of concern I have ever seen,” said Town Council President Robert Driscoll, expressing appreciation for the interest and attendance by so many.
The old nursing home has been vacant for at least 10 years. In 2011 a proposal for condominiums was turned down. The offices of Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and State Sen. Joe Boncore have confirmed that no application has been made nor has any permit been approved by the state related to operating a drug or other substance abuse related treatment at the property.
According to Town Manager James McKenna, in the event that the state does issue such a license, the use would be allowed as a “by right” use, not subject to local zoning or town restrictions.
“It’s better to work and engage with the developers,” McKenna said, who will meet with the developers to determine if a workable plan can be agreed upon for the property.
The building is currently owned by the Roberto family and 142 Pleasant St. Realty Trust.
Principals in the decision process were expected to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss usage.
The future use of the Pleasant Street building is involved in a series of rumors. Word that permits had been pulled to dedicate the space as a methadone clinic, had been circulating through social media and anonymous fliers were distributed to the neighborhood prior to last week’s meeting.
In 2015, another petition to turn the building into condos had been withdrawn by the applicant due to neighborhood complaints. Some of those in attendance expressed concern that the rumors were true while others felt that this was just a ploy or scare tactic.
Economic Development Citizen Advisory Committee member Michael Lucerto, spoke up about the need to say ‘yes’ to filling the vacant buildings in town. “Every piece of empty commercial property is a community issue, not a neighborhood issue,” said Lucerto.
Addressing some misconceptions that were raised at the meeting, former Town Council President Peter Gill assured those in attendance that the council, past and present, has been working in accordance with the legal process to produce an agreement in the best interest of all.
To summarize the process to date, and “set the record straight”, he presented the
• On August 19, 2015 the owners of the property petitioned to have the property
placed into a Special Development Overlay District (SDOD). The Council referred the
matter to the Planning Board to hold a public hearing and deliver a recommendation
back to the Council. Subsequent to the well attended public hearing, the Planning
Board delivered the recommendation to the council on November 23.
• The council scheduled a Joint Council / Planning Board Public Hearing for December 15, 2015, which was cancelled due to the withdrawal of the petition. Comments from the neighbors caused the applicant to withdraw and work on an acceptable development plan for the future.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Town Manager James McKenna said that he will meet with the owners (developers) to determine if a workable plan agreeable to all parties can be established.
Future meetings regarding the property will be posted on the town website.