Following of the Planning Commission’s site plan approval for the proposed methadone clinic on Corporate Drive, the Planning Commission will need to hold a new public hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
The mayor voided the site plan approval for the clinic last month after finding there was a notification error before the last public hearing. The city mistakenly did not notify Cortlandt neighbors of the public hearing, although it was required because the proposed site is less than 500 feet from the Cortlandt border, Director of Planning Anthony Ruggiero said.
The Renaissance Project is the organization that owns 3 Corporate Drive and that is hoping to open the clinic, which would combine the current methadone maintenance center and the Renaissance Project's outpatient therapy program currently run out of Peekskill's into the one location.
While residents in the Corporate Drive area wait to speak out at the next public hearing, they have been collecting signatures on a petition against the proposal. The most recent estimate is about 500 signatures. The active residents, as well as Mayor Mary Foster, have asked why the clinic cannot be run by the Renaissance Project but stay on HVHC’s property, where it has been run since 1979.
“It is the chronicness of treatment…it needs to be sited in a location conducive to medical use and not in a half vacant industrial park,” Foster said.
Over the last few years, the hospital has been working with Renaissance, which was recommended by the County, in hopes of transferring the program. President John Federspiel says that due to reduced government funding, the hospital has lost about $200,000 per year for the last ten years, and that with HVHC’s recent and future expansion plans there is no room for it anymore. The clinic is currently housed in two trailers in the back of the hospital.
“Going forward there will be new technologies we will have to adopt and that will require space. We are still cramped and are growing,” Federspiel said.
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Federspiel added that the hospital hopes to make the transition as smooth as possible and that they provide $5-9 million of free health care per year, as is required by the state. He also touted Renaissance’s credentials; saying they were recommended to the hospital by Westchester County officials, are licensed, are committed to treatment of people affected by substance abuse and treat hundreds of people each year.
Mayor Mary Foster disagrees, stating that Renaissance has never run a methadone clinic before, but only counseling services. Renaissance operations currently include a 100-bed, in-patient rehabilitation facility in Ellenville, NY and nine out-patient drug and alcohol treatment facilities in other locations. None of their current operations include drug administration.
Residents point out that Renaissance has made headlines in recent years for incidents they do not want to see in their neighborhoods.
On Oct. 6, 2010, Ricahrd N. Giga, a Renaissance Project patient at its Ulster County facility for killing a Renaissance security guard and in connection with the slaying and abduction of a 35-year-old nurse at the facility.
Local resident Wendy Kelly started the petition against the clinic and is consistently sending information to her friends and neighbors, asking them to spread the word and join her in her opposition.
Kelly writes in an email: “Please help us in Peekskill to keep the facility where it should belong in a secure, safe, public facility that has public transpiration, away from our neighborhood packed with children and the elderly. If you think Property Values are at an all time low just wait if this comes to town.”
Kelly and others are expected to speak at the Peekskill City Council meeting on Aug. 13, although that is not when the official Planning Commission public hearing will be held.
Another concern the mayor has voiced is that Corporate Drive is not appropriately zoned for such a use.
The Planning Commission determined that because the Corporate Drive area is in an industrial zone, which allows for “professional office” use, among others, that it was permitted in that location. All the city’s doctor’s offices are zoned under “professional office” use.
In the city code, Professional Office use is defined as:
Office for use by person or persons whose vocation or occupation requires advanced training in some liberal art or science and whose work usually involves more mental than physical work.
Foster says that Professional Office use, nor any other uses allowed in an industrial zone, allow for a methadone clinic.
“Right now it is not a permitted use at Corporate Drive,” Foster said. “We don’t have a defined use called a medical office.” The city has business office or ambulatory healthcare facility defined uses, but the clinic does not fit either one, or any others, she said.
The Planning commission will most likely schedule a new public hearing in September or October since it is not already scheduled for August, and will consider the City Council, mayor and publics concerns while making a new determination on the site plan approval.
Several calls and emails sent to William Magwood, CEO of the Renaissance Project, were never returned.
Stay with Patch for updates on the proposal.