WEST STOCKBRIDGE -- Opponents of a plan to turn the historic Williamsville Inn into a juvenile drug treatment facility have prevailed.
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 5-0 on Tuesday to deny a special permit application that was submitted by the developers. The board cited potential traffic and noise issues, and the sheer incongruity of operating such a facility in a largely residential neighborhood.
The meeting drew 106 residents, according to the sign-up sheet -- 31 more people than attended this year's annual town meeting. Most were not in support of the application.
"This is a very close-knit neighborhood," said Abby Pratt, whose property abuts the inn parcel. "We don't have fences. We walk through each other's yards. This [facility] doesn't fit."
Williamsville Center LLC was seeking a permit to change the use of the 18th century structure from an inn to a treatment center. Renovation would include making the building ADA compliant, and adding a sprinkler system.
The two principals of the company, Clay Lifflander and James Foy, along with clinical psychologist Thomas Erwin, explained during a presentation that the facility would have a maximum of 20 clients, aged 13-17. Total staff would be about 40.
The facility was not a detox center, Erwin stressed; patients would begin treatment there after detoxification.
Foy and Lifflander both pointed out that there were few, if any, juvenile treatment centers east of the Mississippi River. Such a facility was needed in this part of the country, said Foy.
Many residents said they agreed in principal, but they objected to placing the center in the middle of an area that had been residential for generations. Even the inn itself, many said, was deemed less a business than a family enterprise.
ZBA Clerk Joseph G. Roy Jr. read the names of 32 residents who had sent letters in opposition.
Kenneth Werner, who has lived in the neighborhood for 26 years, pointed out that while the Williamsville Inn was a busy place in the summer, the business slowed considerably in the fall and winter. The proposed facility, he said, would be busy year round.
Brian Butterworth was one of several neighbors who told the ZBA that the area was a residential zone for reason.
"Pay attention to the zoning," he urged.
There was considerable discussion on Tuesday of increased traffic and noise throughout the day and night. Another neighbor, Matt Barnard, pointed out that he expected a more extensive lighting array at the site, which was potentially intrusive.
Police Chief Thomas A. Rubino delivered a telling blow when he told the ZBA that he expected to have to increase the police presence in town.
Proponents of the facility invoked a greater good.
Inn owner Kandii Wendt presented the board with a petition signed by 60 people -- 2- of whom were West Stockbridge residents -- in support of the facility.
Former resident Fidel Moreno said he knows of at least a dozen local families who have lost a child to drug abuse.
"This is something badly needed," he said.
Moreno's sentiment was in fact echoed by ZBA chairman C. Randolph Thunfors, who agreed that such a facility was desired.
But, he said, not in Williamsville.
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