The Andover Zoning Board of Appeals continued a contentious public hearing Thursday for a proposed drug treatment facility on Haverhill Street.
The hearing will resume at the ZBA’s Sept. 1 meeting. ZBA members said they wanted to consult with counsel before issuing a decision on Medico 140 LLC’s plan. ZBA member Ellen Keller recused herself from the hearing.
Medico 140 received planning board approval last month for a special permit for an inpatient and outpatient drug treatment facility at 140 Haverhill Street in Andover, which it purchased for $660,000 in March 2021.
The company, which opened a similar facility in Wilmington last year after a four-year legal challenge by neighbors and Wilmington officials, has operated its outpatient program in an existing building on the Andover property since purchasing the site. Under the special permit approved by the planning board, Medico would build a new, 9,180-square-foot facility to house the program, known as Topsail, in the new development. The building for the new inpatient program would be approximately 39,000-square-feet and have beds for 64 patients.
In September the ZBA approved three variances for the project, including the Andover zoning rules calling for a 300-foot setback, a five-foot setback for parking spaces and a prohibition on overnight care at a medical clinic. Neighbors of the project have filed an appeal of that decision with the Massachusetts Land Court. That case, which argues neighbors were not given appropriate notice before the September ZBA hearing, is still pending. A status conference is scheduled for Sept. 19 in Land Court.
At Thursday’s two-hour hearing, Medico asked the ZBA to reissue two of those variances and two new variances: one allowing them to proceed with 154 parking spots instead of the 200 to 250 required under local zoning laws and one allowing cars from into a right of way, as several rights of way make up the aisles in the proposed parking lot. The developers said they no longer needed the variance for the five-foot parking variance.
Some neighbors attended Thursday’s meeting and complained they had not received notification. Town rules call for direct notification of property owners who directly abut a project and the posting of government legal notices in the Andover Townsman.
“No one showed up to speak in favor or against before your board last time,” Thomas Flanagan, an attorney for South Bay Properties, the plaintiffs in the land court case, said Thursday. Flanagan said the developer’s request to change the definition of a medical center was “unusual” and, if approved, would effectively nullify the existing zoning law.
“I think the board should consider what it is being asked to do and what the result would be if it allowed what it is being asked to allow,” Flanagan said.
Richard Renzi, who lives across the street, said Medico had not proven there would be a significant financial hardship if the variances were not approved. “This relief can only be granted by the board if there’s no substantial detriment to the public good,” Renzi said. “The new proposed 64-bed will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are no other facilities that operate 24/7 on Haverhill Street.”