On Thursday, the Planning Board heard a request to change the use of 568 Beech St. from a two-family dwelling to a six-bedroom congregate housing facility.
The applicant organization, 603 Sober Living LLC, indicated in documents submitted to the Manchester Planning and Community Development Department that it seeks to rent rooms for 12 men seeking recovery from addictions and alcohol, with two more tenants upon completion of a third bathroom to be constructed in April.
Several neighbors spoke in opposition to the request, stating that the proposal would add further crime to an already dangerous area and reduce property values nearby. The neighbors also said the proposal would not fit within the character of the neighborhood, which has schools, churches, nursing homes and other uses that would be adversely impacted by the proposal. There were also concerns that the proposal would be better classified as a halfway house than a sober living facility in the belief that it would primarily attract individuals re-integrating into society after serving time in prison. Neighbors also had concerns regarding possible noise from tenants congregating late at night smoking outside the building.
Spokespeople for the application acknowledged that crime is an issue in the area, but stated that all tenants at the facility would be there voluntarily and there is a no-tolerance policy for drug use by any tenants at the facility and weekly and randomized drug testing.
The representatives of the applicants also responded to concerns about the impact to nearby property values by asserting the facility would be beneficial to the community, later adding that they would seek to reach out to neighbors to see how they could be better neighbors, although they did not feel it was necessary to build a larger chain-link fence around the property requested by some neighbors. They also added that a more rural property that could also meet tenant requirements to walk to jobs and drug counseling sessions could not be found.
The property is located in the C-1, or Civic Institutional District, where congregate housing is allowed with a permit. Planning and Community Development staff indicated earlier in the hearing that the change of use request is granted, it would be required again if another organization other than 603 Sober Living LLC operated a congregate living facility at the property.
A decision on the change of use is expected at the Planning Board’s next scheduled meeting.
Later in the meeting, the Planning Board closed the public hearing on two requested changes that would add 155 residential units to 1000 Elm St.
Members of the Planning Board were uniform in their support of the modifications proposed to the original proposal, with additional trees as well as the retention of several first-floor retail units that were slated to be transformed into apartments. Despite requests for a final determination on Thursday by the applicants, Planning Board Chair Bryce Kaw-Uh said that the board and staff would need some time to assemble a final determination, which is expected at the board’s next meeting.