Potsdam Planning Board tables vote on addict group home; wants organizers to persuade neighbors of benefits
Friday, October 5, 2012 - 6:38 am

By CRAIG FREILCIH

POTSDAM – The village Planning Board wants sponsors of a proposed group home for addicts to see if they can persuade neighbors that the benefit of the program outweighs concerns over safety and water drainage.

The board Thursday night heard from proponents and opponents of a plan to build a house at 88 Market St. that would house about a dozen women who would have no other place to live after their release from drug rehabilitation.

About a dozen citizens made up the audience.

Transformation House Ministries, a project of New Hope Community Church, is asking the board to approve a special use permit to allow the house to be used as a group dwelling, ordinarily not allowed in the B-2 light business and residential zone.

Carolyn White, president of the board of the program and an experienced drug rehabilitation manager at Canton-Potsdam Hospital for 20 years, said the house would have a paid live-in manager and a paid therapist, along with volunteer workers.

The women will have been clean and sober for a month before admission to the halfway house. White says it would be a voluntary program and not a required alternative to incarceration.

She and other church members said the area needs such a program, citing the lack of a similar program for women in the region.

Among the benefits of the location are its walking distance to shopping and potential jobs and other services.

But Elizabeth List, who has lived near the lot at the intersection of Market and Garden Streets for 20 years, called the plan “a halfway house” that was “veiled as a home for rehabilitated women, not those in recovery. It is for drug addicts and alcoholics” and that it would be a “powder keg for problems for residents in the area.”

Another sticking point for opponents was that the area is prone to flooding, and that new construction might exacerbate the problem, according to neighboring residents Helen Brouwer and Keith Swanson, both of whom own lots adjacent to the now empty 88 Market St. lot.

Representatives of the project said that among the reasons that they do not want to build at their property on Grant Street is because that lot is also prone to flooding, but opponents countered that building at Market and Garden would not solve that problem for them.

After the hearing, the board took up the matter, but some members said they were not ready to vote, feeling that an effort by the ministry to persuade neighbors that the project could be done safely might be worth some time. They tabled the issue until Oct. 18, when the board will meet again.

The board has two months after the hearing date to decide the matter.

The village’s zoning map can be seen here.