Tuesday, February 13, 2001

City board approves 'sober' lodging house

By Tom Dalton Salem Evening News Writer
Salem --

Over the strenuous objections of a city councilor and a neighbor, the Licensing Board granted a license to a lodging house near Salem Common for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.

The board unanimously but reluctantly approved a license for Phil Malonson for the 2-4 Emerton Street building even though two members said they opposed licensing a "sober house" in a residential neighborhood.

As he cast his vote, Licensing Board member John Casey said it "pains me" to approve the license. "It pains me probably more," echoed Chairman Harold Blake, who earlier said this was the "wrong neighborhood" for the sober house.

The board said it has no choice because the non-profit facility is protected by state and federal laws. it reminded neighbors that it did not approve a license several years ago, only to have the decision overturned in court.

And even if it didn't grant a new license, the facility could continue to operate under its old license, the board said.

Malonson who is in the process of buying the 8 room lodging house from John Kilroy, has operated the Twelve Step education Program of New England there for the past three years

Malonson created the non-profit program in 1992 to provide "sober living environments" for recovering addicts. He has other facilities in Saugus, Billerica, Attleboro, Woburn and Quincy.

Neighbors complained that the longtime rooming house has been a source of noise, traffic, and other problems for years, and that a tenant died there recently.

"This house does not belong in an area with families and children," said Ward 2 Councilor Regina Flynn. The death late last year, she said, raised a lot of questions. "Were drugs brought into the house? When were these people in our neighborhood? Did they carry guns? Will they be back?"

While the board debated conditions it wanted to place on the license, a neighbor, Mary Madore, pleaded with them to deny the license. "As neighbors and taxpayers, we're saying to you - please listen to us...please help us...We don't want people to die in our backyards."

The board placed conditions on the license which it said would give them some control over the facility and help to protect neighbors.

Malonson, who said his program has won endorsements from law enforcement officials in other communities, agreed to the board's request to reduce the number of lodging house tenants from 12 to 10, and to set a 9 p.m. curfew for visitors.

Other conditions include signed releases by tenants allowing the board to inspect rooms and management to search rooms for illegal substances; criminal background checks, a prohibition of sex offenders; and daily inspections of the immediate neighborhood for bottles and other debris by the live-in manager.

"We can make things work," said Malonson. "I just want to work with the neighbors."
  Copyright© 2001 Essex County Newspapers.
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