A nonprofit health care company is seeking a change to Hartford’s zoning regulations to allow methadone and substance-use rehabilitation clinics to operate in certain mixed-use zones.
The Root Center for Advanced Recovery, which operates nine methadone treatment clinics in the state, including two in Hartford, filed its application in July seeking a text amendment to the city’s regulations. A virtual hearing on the matter is scheduled with the Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 13.
The regulations currently prohibit methadone clinics from operating within the city in any zone.
However, Hartford has three clinics, including Roots on Main Street and Weston Street, which are permitted to operate as nonconforming uses because they were in operation before the regulations were amended, Root’s attorney Andrea Gomes, of Hinckley Allen, said.
Root’s two facilities, according to a letter submitted to the commission, serve approximately 1,400 patients with substance use disorders.
In her letter to the commission and in an interview, Gomes said the city’s prohibition of methadone clinics violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The case law provides … treating methadone clinics differently is a violation of the ADA because a person who is in recovery from substance use disorder is considered disabled within the meaning of the ADA,” Gomes said. “This text amendment would assist in remedying that situation.”
Even if the commission adopts the text amendment, providers would still have to apply for a special-use permit to have a methadone clinic in a mixed-use (MX-1) zone, Gomes said.
“We’re going through a text amendment application, which is really the first step in the development process,” Gomes said. “We’re seeking to amend the Hartford zoning regulations to allow this use. However we come out with that with the Planning and Zoning Commission could potentially dictate the size of the facility.”
In Root’s case, the plan is to shut down the Main Street clinic and construct a brand-new, 8,100-square-foot facility on several vacant parcels on Lafayette Street, Gomes said.
“Root Center has recently, within the last few years, started updating its facilities to try and provide the best environment possible to allow its clients to heal,” said Gomes, adding that the company recently closed an older facility in New Britain and opened up a new clinic, “which has become the design model for the clinic going forward. It’s part of Root’s mission these last few years to begin updating its clinics.”
According to Hartford’s zoning regulations, Mixed-use districts are either centered around large-scale institutional facilities such as the Capitol area, universities and hospitals, and in other areas of low-scale mixed-use development.
“These districts include a mix of compatible office or residential uses,” the regulations say.
The MX-1 district, the regulations say, is a lower intensity district that is “intended to be compatible with adjacent historic neighborhoods” and includes a mix of office, institutional or residential uses.
Gomes says she and Root have been in discussions with the city, and she has not heard any comments from the public thus far.