Editorial: Don’t close the doors
West Mountain might not be the ideal place, but drug and alcohol rehabilitation is clearly something that’s needed — it’s needed in our society, in our town, and Ridgefield shouldn’t be a place where rehab facilities are unwelcome.
The withdrawal of the Mountainside application for a rehabilitation facility at the Sunset Hall property on Old West Mountain Road comes in response to deep and very active neighborhood opposition. The Ridgefield Neighborhood Preservation Alliance voiced significant concerns, raised legitimate questions, and worked within a system that is designed to give residents of a neighborhood the opportunity to have a say in what goes up — and what goes on — next door. It shouldn’t be any other way.
The neighborhood won. The Mountainside application has been withdrawn. It doesn’t appear to be a tactical pull-back where the application will return in amended form, but rather an admission that the site isn’t going to work — at least, not in the face fierce neighborhood opposition.
Two issues remain for the town to grapple with.
One is that properties like Sunset Hall — a 22-room, circa 1900 mansion with a ballroom — can be difficult to maintain as a single-family home. The Planning and Zoning Commission has attempted to deal with the issue in higher profile areas, like Main Street, with regulations that allow some conversion and redevelopment. What’s going on at the Elms Inn site is an example. Perhaps the commission should consider what makes sense to help maintain such properties deeper into the town’s single-family residential zones. As on Main Street, preservation of historic buildings and cherished streetscapes is a primary goal.
And there is the problem of drugs and alcohol — use, abuse, dependence, addiction. It can destroy lives. It can end lives.
Ridgefield is not immune to the problem. West Mountain may not be the place, but the town should not simply close its doors to all facilities seeking to help people recover from addiction.