Town Council Voted to Deny Halfway House

After the completion of the November 9th public hearing to consider a Zoning Map Amendment to allow a halfway house in Cross Mills where halfway houses are currently prohibited, a motion was proposed by Town Councilor George Tremblay and passed unanimously by the Town Council. That motion follows.

Tremblay Motion Regarding Teen Challenge Application for a Zoning Amendment

While we may applaud the efforts of the applicant organization to rescue young persons struggling with addictions and other conflicts with the law, the merits of the applicant’s program and its potential benefit to our local youth are not at issue. At issue is whether the proposed amendment is compatible with the language and intent of the governing zoning ordinance for the Traditional Village District (TVD).

Chapter 218-37 of the Charlestown Zoning Ordinance includes a 14-page list of potential land uses, tabulated alongside columns for each of our 12 zoning districts. Scrolling down to “Halfway House” and reading across the 12 zoning districts, we find a halfway house, like a nursing home, is a permitted use in 4 districts: Commercial 1-3 and PDD. Neither is permitted in the TVD or in any residential district. It is obvious that permitting a halfway house, or a nursing home, in some districts but not in others, is intentional. We might ask: What is it about a halfway house that accounts for its prohibition in the TVD?

Chapter 218-5 of the Charlestown Zoning Ordinance defines Halfway House as “A residential facility for adults and children who have been institutionalized for criminal conduct.Whether or not this description fits all clients of the applicant organization, approval of the proposed zoning amendment would authorize such use by future owners. Testimony from the public has been overwhelming in its opposition, primarily over concerns for maintaining the character of the neighborhood.

Chapter 218-45, of the Charlestown Zoning Ordinance describes the TVD as a distinct zoning district intended “ encourage small-scale business and residential uses consistent with the historic and pedestrian-scale characteristics that exist and which are unique to Charlestown village, to preserve the Town’s heritage, to strengthen the local economy, to continue small town character and aesthetics, and to promote the general welfare of the Town.” Since there has never been a halfway house in the TVD, introducing one would not be consistent with the historic characteristics unique to Charlestown village, nor could it contribute to the preservation of the Town’s heritage or continue small town character and aesthetics of the TVD.

Lastly, the applicant asks that only one lot in the TVD be granted an exemption to the prohibition. This would grant a privilege to one owner in the TVD, but deny that privilege to others in the same district. Approval would clearly be discriminatory.

The burden of demonstrating consistency with the language and intent of current zoning regulations is with the applicant. This, in my opinion, the applicant has failed to do. Accordingly, I move to deny.

Motion to deny was approved unanimously (5:0).

George Tremblay