Ludlow DRB completes review of Divided Sky Foundation request

LUDLOW, Vt. – Ludlow’s Development Review Board picked up where they left off Monday, May 10, for the third and final time, concerning the application by the Divided Sky Foundation to adapt the former Green Mountain at Fox Run location to a 40-bed detox and residential treatment facility.

Although anyone could view the meeting via live stream, participation in the Zoom meeting itself was limited to those involved with, or impacted by, the project including facility owner’s Divided Sky Foundation representatives; Ascension Recovery Services representatives who will run the facility for DSF; those who live near the location at Fox Run Condominiums; Troy Caruso, owner of the new Fox Run Golf Club; legal representatives; local law enforcement; local and state addiction counselors; as well as other board and town officials.

Ludlow’s Development Review Board is a quasi-judicial board, with all participants being sworn in before testifying in the meeting.

Patrick Smart began by leading the board by reviewing the 18.63-acre site plan including parking, which garnered challenges from the Fox Run condo owners and in particular by Toni Girardi, legal counsel for the Fox Run condo owners, calling into question whether their stated required 20 parking spaces was appropriate. Things that were called into question touched on staff shift changes, incoming deliveries, visitors, and facility guests.

Ascension Recovery Services representatives noted that based on their decades of running similar facilities, the 20 parking spaces will be appropriate, specifically noting that the guests at the facility would be pre-registered and would include transportation to the facility by another party, and shift changes would be staggered.

Some of those spaces are on the road itself on the corner, which several condo owners said would be a concern. Ludlow Police Chief Jeff Billings said that the town has always allowed at least 6 to 12 cars parked on that corner, and they had never had an issue reported from anybody from the condo units.

The board asked for clarification on security at the facility, and the Ascension team said that there were security cameras, a security person on staff 24/7 as well as additional 24/7 staff performing rounds. Questions were asked about whether facility residents would be allowed to leave the building. The Ascension representative said that all free time is scheduled, including time outdoors, and that behavior technicians and other staff would constantly monitor their time outside.

The board heard testimony concerning the admissions process for the facility with Girardi asking whether Divided Sky could guarantee that they would not admit dangerous or violent individuals. Ascension representatives outlined the extensive screening process to make sure individuals are emotionally capable and appropriate for the facility. In addition, they would be receiving continual assessments throughout the first 24-48 hours. They also said that if an individual was deemed extremely dangerous or posed a problem, they would not be acceptable for this facility.

Attorney for Divided Sky, Chris Roy, took issue with comments from several condo owners and Girardi that residents would represent a danger, saying, “There is literally no evidence before the board to suggest any real danger of any disruptive behavior that will impact the character of the area.” Board Chair Phil Carter later stated that they had received a lot of evidence in support of the fact that facility guests do not result in increased crime.

Girardi introduced an expert witness that was brought in to discuss real estate values but Carter said that issue was not relevant to the DRB.

Questions about sewer issues raised in the previous meeting were addressed, and recent sewer repairs were essentially complete with the only thing remaining being a testing phase.

As the board concluded the proceedings, they agreed to allow all parties to submit proposed findings and conclusions by May 24. The DRB will then have another 45 days for the board to make their final decision.

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