Neighbors appeal on mental health facility cites land use regulations
By David Taube
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | November 20,2012
MIDDLESEX — The basis of an environmental court appeal by neighbors of a proposed seven-bed psychiatric facility relates to town land-use regulations, and state officials plan to discuss the issue today.
State Mental Health Department administrators say the facility will help bring relief to overburdened emergency rooms. Since flooding from Tropical Storm Irene closed the Vermont State Hospital, hospitals have been acting more and more as buffers for involuntary psychiatric patients before patients can get beds at residential facilities.
“In terms of freeing up acute hospital beds, if even one person were even able to be out of that bed — one person moving out means that multiple people can then be served in acute care,” said Frank Reed, a Mental Health Department administrator. “The same (goes) with emergency departments.”
A family whose backyard and house are next to the proposed site on Route 2 by the State Police barracks filed a notice of appeal, but the couple and their lawyer had declined to provide the legal grounds for their case. In a public hearing, one member of the couple, Brian Hannon, said his property value could be affected, among other issues, but paperwork filed last week didn’t make that case.
Court papers filed Thursday showed the basis of the couple’s appeal relies on land use technicalities. Issues range from noise and parking to whether the facility conforms to the town plan and the building size complies with regulations.
Assistant Attorney General Gavin Boyles said that document, called a statement of questions, limits the scope of the appeal, so additional concerns could not be raised later.
State officials are confident they will prevail in the dispute, but have expressed concerns over the delay. The state has also indicated a willingness to get the case expedited, though that has not been requested.
“The state is still weighing its options as far as how to move forward,” Boyles said.
Boyles said a phone conference also has yet to be scheduled. A settlement has not been ruled out, he said.
Dave Burley, an administrator with the Buildings and General Services Department who testified at the Middlesex zoning board hearing on the project this fall, said Monday there was no restriction on the size of the building given the project.