After a contentious six-month review, the Camden Planning Board approved the proposal to establish a high-end drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic at the Fox Hill estate on Bay View Street, 4-1, with planning board member Richard Householder opposed.

In opening remarks at the January 2 meeting, planning board chairman Lowrie Sargent reminded the audience and the board that the role of the planning board was not to be swayed by public opinion, but to hold up the arguments presented by the public to see if the proposal before them was supported by the comprehensive plan and the zoning ordinance.

"Nor should its decision be based on the members' general opinion that the project would be 'good' or 'bad' for the community," Sargent said in his opening remarks. "Its decision must be based solely on whether the applicant has met his or her burden of proof."

Lowrie also noted that the 2005 comprehensive plan is meant as a guiding document, but could not have forecasted the loss of population in Camden over the past decade, the increase in the age of the population, or the impact of the 2008 recession. It is unpredictable changes such as these that require flexibility in the comprehensive plan, he said.

With the Fox Hill vote, the planning board specifically approved changes to the town zoning ordinance that would allow the operation of the rehab clinic in a residential zone, with additional language that restricts the types of treatment, the number of patients, changes to the property and buildings, and the amount of traffic allowed.

Householder voted against the zoning amendment, noting in his remarks that the rehab facility was, by definition, a hospital, not a clinic, and patients that could afford to come to Fox Hill would likely attract unwanted media attention that would be disruptive to the neighborhood. Householder noted that the increased traffic, the commercial nature of the clinic, the existing designation of the zone as residential and the conflict with the comprehensive plan led him to vote against the proposal.

Camden's Select Board may take up the proposal at their next meeting on Tuesday, January 21. The agenda for that meeting will be posted January 16 on the town website at www.camdenmaine.gov. Public documents detailing the planning board's deliberations over Fox Hill are online at www.dropbox.com/sh/lb0d0geoi51uc5u/i4Kio-eOAt.