A plan to build a gym has become a pressure point for neighbors trying to stop a private drug rehab center from opening on Ella T. Grasso Boulevard.
A company called Coal New Haven is moving forward with plans to build the new 105-bed treatment center at 915 Ella T. Grasso Boulevard (pictured) for people recovering from drug addiction. The site is At a shuttered nursing home.
The company wants to build a large new gym for use by people at the center. To do so, it needs a zoning variance to allow fewer spaces and more lot coverage than zoning regulations otherwise require.
Coal submitted a variance application to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) earlier this month. The BZA referred the matter to the City Plan Commission, which last week voted to recommend that the BZA approve the plan for the new gym. The matter now heads back to the BZA for a final vote.
“We are opposition to the erection of this gymnasium,” West River activist Stacey Spell (pictured) told the BZA at its Dec. 11 meeting.
Where is the overflow parking going to go? he asked. The gym would be built near Porter Street, a quiet, dead end street, Spell noted.
Ndubuisi Asoh (pictured at top of story), who lives on Porter Street, presented zoners with a petition against the proposal, signed by 11 people. He accused Coal of trying to “sneak” into the neighborhood “to alter our lifestyle forever.”
A drug rehab facility is “not a reasonable use for a residential area,” he said. The center would be dangerous for kids, and would eventually be used to treat people with criminal records, Asoh predicted. “Child molestation and crime go with drug addiction.”
The center would lower property values and threaten safety, Asoh said.
BZA member Gaylord Bourne pointed out that the right to open the facility is “beyond our purview.” The drug center can go in the neighborhood by right. The only variance in question is for the construction of a gym, she noted.
That didn’t stop two more people from speaking out against the rehab center.
Attorney Anthony Avallone told the BZA that the gym will not lead to any additional traffic on Porter Street. He submitted a letter of support for the proposal written by Hill Alderwoman Jackie James.
He said the company has held a number of public meetings and even organized a bus trip for neighbors so that they could look at one of the company’s facilities in Pennsylvania.
Neighbors and lawyers were absent from the City Plan Commission meeting, where City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg (pictured) informed commissioners of some of the opposition voiced at the BZA meeting.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the variance to allow the gym.