A nationally known drug and alcohol treatment center based in Havre de Grace asked the Harford County Board of Appeals Wednesday to permit its expansion.
Father Martin's Ashley proposed building three new structures on its campus along Oakington Road, citing the increasing need for its services in Maryland.
"Right now we’re at capacity," Father Mark Hushen, CEO of Father Martin's Ashley, said at the Feb. 6 hearing in Bel Air.
The treatment center currently has 85 beds for patients suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism, a number it would like to increase to 100.
There is an "expanding need for service in the state of Maryland, particularly with young adults and individuals who have chronic pain [that are] addicted to opiates," Hushen said. "The need continues to increase."
Hushen said that its proposal would allow Father Martin's to "upgrade its facilities, stay competitive in the marketplace and serve more individuals and families who are suffering."
The three structures in the plan are as follows:
- A new patient intake and wellness center would centralize initial care. In the current configuration, new patients cycle through different buildings. The new building, including 36 beds, would enable Father Martin's to assign two patients per room (an industry standard, Hushen said), versus the situation now, which is three to four per room.
- The guard house would be razed and a new one would be built near the present location.
- A new waste water treatment facility would be built, a requirement by the state.
The treatment center had to apply for changes through the Board of Appeals since the land is zoned as agricultural space. It was granted a special permit in the 1980s to operate according to zoning reserved for nursing homes.
Harford County found no problems with the plans from Father Martin's Ashley, according to Anthony McClune, deputy director of planning and zoning.
Hearing Examiner Robert Kahoe said he was concerned about the unclear course of action for improving water quality.
Project representatives said that approximately one acre of the property would be set aside as a drainage field, and the waste water treatment plant would pre-treat sewage before it goes into a traditional septic system.
One couple attended the hearing to oppose the project.
"I am against expansion," said Griffith Davis, who lives on Oakington Road adjacent to Father Martin's.
His wife said she was worried about the water and sewer plan.
The couple stated concern about the health care and business operation growing in their neighborhood, a residential area.
"I assume that every few years you are going to increase patient load," Davis continued. "Obviously, I'm concerned that a commercial enterprise is going to be unleashed."
Father Martin’s Ashley acquired Swan Creek Golf and Country Club in 2008. This expanded the property size from 43.48 acres to 148.2 acres, according to Ashley’s application to the Board of Appeals.
Hushen said the land is being used as a buffer to increase the privacy of its patients and is not part of the current proposal for expansion.
"Because they got the golf course, they may intend to keep going forever essentially because they can find places to build," Davis said, noting the project began as a 50-bed facility in 1981. "I don’t think it's right that we have a substantial addition. I grant you, their work is good but I don’t want it to continue to enlarge" in the neighborhood.
The treatment center is going through a permitting process with the health department as well for expansion from 85 to 100 beds. Since it is within 1,000 feet of tidal water, the project is also being reviewed by Maryland Department of the Environment for its impact on the Chesapeake Bay.
A decision from the Board of Appeals will be issued within 30 days.