Proposed retreat center conversation continues

  • Residents flocked to Leyden Town Hall Wednesday evening in anticipation of the discussion surrounding a proposed retreat center for young adults with compulsive internet and video game use. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DeLUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 8/15/2019 6:27:56 PM
Modified: 8/15/2019 6:27:46 PM

LEYDEN — What was supposed be a regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting quickly turned to discussion between board members and residents about a proposed retreat center for young adults with compulsive internet and video game use.

After more than three hours of discussion at Town Hall, the board determined it needs more information on the center before making a decision.

The Planning Board adjourned after setting a date for the next public hearing: Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. The board has 150 days from June 17, 2019 — the day the application was submitted — to make a decision.

Odyssey Behavioral Healthcare went before the Planning Board during last month’s hearing to discuss its plan to buy and convert Angels’ Rest Retreat Center at 63 North County Road into a specialized treatment facility.

The proposed center’s mission is “to provide the tools and coping skills needed to interact with the internet and technology in a healthier and more balanced way,” according to Bill Parsons, Odyssey’s vice president of development. The program would launch housing five patients but could expand to 30 patients over the next few years, with patients staying at the center for 45 to 90 days under the guidance of at least two employees.

However, this week’s meeting was a prescheduled regular Planning Board meeting, with other agenda items for the board to discuss. After multiple interruptions during other business, Chairman Robert Snedeker asked for residents’ patience, saying he knew they were attending for the Odyssey center.

“We (the board members) need to start having a discussion,” Snedeker said.

The board members are not allowed to discuss their opinions on town business outside of an official meeting, and wanted to assess their position as a group. However, continued interruptions made it difficult to talk among themselves and the night quickly turned to a back and forth between the board, Odyssey representatives and residents.

The board clarified that Odyssey was requesting a new special permit for the proposed “Greenfield Center,” named after Dr. David Greenfield, and not an extension of the permit previously granted to Angels’ Rest, which hosts retreats and events.

“It doesn’t have to be a black and white condition,” Snedeker said. “If we grant a special permit, we can set conditions to ensure they’re good neighbors.”

The board also received a number of letters from residents, as well as the Leyden Selectboard, to review, but wasn’t able to address them all during Wednesday’s meeting. Some letters included proposed conditions or concerns.

In its letter, the Selectboard requested that the state fire marshal and building inspector inspect both the property at 155 Mid County Road and Angels’ Rest. Planning Board member Arthur Baker said the board could look into this, but he wasn’t certain it was within the board’s jurisdiction to make that request.

Likewise, residents expressed concern about the 155 Mid County Road property, which would be used for counseling and therapeutic services and off-site office space.

“Will Mid County be a 24-hour operation, or operate under regular business hours?” asked Selectboard Chairman Jeffrey Neipp.

Greenfield, who founded The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, explained in response that 155 Mid County Road would not be a 24-hour operation and would operate within limited hours. Clients would go there to meet with an advanced practice registered nurse or physician to discuss their health or medication.

He noted that the most likely medication a client would take is for attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Greenfield explained that clients would be supervised when taking their own medications and that the medicine would be stored in a locked system.

Parsons said anyone with a history of substance abuse will not be eligible for the program. Client and staff screenings include a search for criminal activity, as is standard for most facilities, Greenfield added.

“We traditionally do a thorough screening, including medical and psychiatric history,” Greenfield said.

Greenfield said his involvement with the center would begin with him being on site frequently — a couple times a week at first — to provide structure for the program. After the program is underway, he would likely wind down his on-site presence, consulting more frequently through phone calls or video.

Confusion regarding the type of meeting being held Wednesday was in part due to an incorrect posting on the light-up roadway sign located along Greenfield Road. The sign, which is normally set by the Police Department at the instruction of the Selectboard, incorrectly stated Wednesday’s meeting was a public hearing.

While the board chose not to close the public hearing last month, choosing to adjourn to a later date in case it needed more town input, the board had not set a date for the second hearing — now scheduled for Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. — at the time.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.




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