LEWISTON — Neighbors of a proposed Mollison Way methadone clinic were clear Thursday night: They understand the need for a drug treatment center but believe it belongs somewhere else.
"I just don't think the neighborhood is the right fit for this," said Bruce Pelletier, who owns a business at 780 Main St.
Other neighbors who run a day care center and a pediatric clinic in the same complex but more than 1,000 feet away from the proposed center, agreed.
"I guess we're not so much worried about what you will do, but what you will do to our business," said Jamie Bolduc, of Lever's Daycare. "You can bring us in and educate us about what you do. But can you bring all the parents in here? The ones who will stop coming when they find out how close you are to our door?"
Officials and spokesmen for Quincy, Mass.-based Community Substance Abuse Centers hosted the meeting Thursday night at the Ramada Inn to meet with their potential neighbors and to answer questions.
The company is proposing to build Lewiston's first methadone substance abuse treatment facility on Mollison Way, near the Spare-time Recreation bowling alley.
Methadone is used to treat addiction to opioid drugs, such as heroin or OxyContin. The company operates 11 clinics in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and a 12th at 2300 Congress St. in Portland.
Chief Executive Officer Matt Davis said the facilities are clinical, clean and inconspicuous. Neighbors frequently don't realize the clinic treats drug addiction.
"Historically, I think that's what you see if you research the company," Davis said. "One of the things we pride ourselves on is that we operate as good community members and good neighbors."
Planner Mike Gotto of Stonybrook Associates of Turner said the company hired him to navigate the city's zoning codes and find the best spot. Gotto said Lewiston's ordinance, adopted in 2006, made that difficult.
Lewiston's methadone clinic rules require substance abuse treatment centers to get business licenses from the city. Those licenses must be approved by the City Council and then reviewed annually by the council. The ordinance allows substance abuse treatment centers to be built as long as they are a minimum of 1,000 feet from churches, schools, parks or day care centers.
"You look at the city and it looks wide open, until you start drawing 1,000-foot circles all over the place," he said.
The company looked at several locations around Lewiston, before settling on Mollison Way, he said.
"Right now, under this criteria, we think we can get approved," Gotto said. "It may not make anybody happy, here in this room, but we think we meet the requirements."
Dr. Linda Glass of Pediatric Associates at 33 Mollison Way said there must be better places. Gotto agreed, but he said those other places don't fit Lewiston's zoning rules.
"It may be that Lewiston's zoning is wrong here," Gotto said. "But we need to proceed with the process we have."
Gotto said the company had not applied for the business license but planned to next week. He said he was pushing for a workshop meeting with the Lewiston City Council and the Lewiston Planning Board to discuss the matter and he hoped it would come to the city for a formal vote in February or March.
If approved, the company would open the clinic late in the summer or the fall of 2011.