Rhinebeck drug rehab center stirring concern

Village officials, neighbors say county sublet may violate accepted use

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A drug rehabilitation center run by three private nonprofit companies has replaced a county treatment center for the developmentally disabled in the heart of Rhinebeck. And the quiet changeover last year has some residents, and village officials, concerned.

A contingent of neighbors is questioning the use of the building at 47 West Market Street. They say it no longer complies with its original 1970s permit, which allowed for the treatment of about 20 to25 mentally challenged adults through the Dutchess County Department of Mental Hygiene.

The building has apparently been sublet by the county to three nonprofits — Occupation, Inc., Hudson Valley Mental Health, and the Lexington Center — that mainly deal in drug rehabilitation.

About 15 area residents appeared before Village of Rhinebeck trustees at their May 14 meeting and brought a petition, with 45 signatures, of concerns about the change of tenants in the building and examples of what they view as safety problems caused by the new clientele.

More than a dozen residents spoke about problems they had with the facility, including clients loitering or smoking on the street. Some also told stories of missing UPS packages and clients wandering through their property. Multiple residents expressed concern about the numerous taxis they say speed through their residential neighborhood. And they cited numerous incidents of small thefts that they believe could be related to the activity at 47 West Market St.

“Beginning in the late summer of 2012, neighbors took notice that more individuals were congregating on the street and sidewalk, generally loitering and smoking,” said Mike Ghee, who is also a village planning board member.

Ghee questioned the location of such facility next to the village business district and a residential neighborhood.

After the May 14 meeting, zoning enforcement officer Robert Fennell said he had contacted the owner of the building, Michael Colnaghi, informed him that the building was currently a non-conforming use and asked for details about its current use.

As of June 14, Rhinebeck Mayor Jim Reardon told The Observer, Colnaghi had still not fully responded to Fennell’s inquiries, although he added that the village was told it would receive a response soon from the property manager Colnaghi employs.

If the village does not receive a response, or if it is not satisfactory, Reardon said, Colnaghi will have to appear before the village’s zoning board to prove the building conforms to intended use.

As for resident concerns, Reardon told The Observer that, “to my knowledge” there had been no incidents investigated by police that could be directly related to the rehab facility.

He said he has stressed to residents that if they have any concerns over any events such as “someone on their property,” they should report it to the police so it can be investigated.

He also told village board members at their June 11 meeting that he had spoken to Kelly Jacob, a facilities manager for Occupations, Inc, who deals with approximately 100 clients from around Dutchess County in group drug rehabilitation.

In general, “she said they do struggle at time with people that come and refuse to come in for treatment,” Reardon said, referring to resident complaints that clients loiter outside.

Reardon added that Kelly was very cooperative, and that he later spoke with a representative from Hudson Valley Mental Health. Since their discussion, the smoking area for the center’s clients was moved off the public streets and the lawn maintenance has improved.

“They have addressed some of the problems that we’ve had over there already,” Reardon said.

Employees have also stopped using street parking, Reardon added.

At the June meeting, Reardon also said that he had spoken with Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who told him that when the county operated the building, there were also some substance abuse programs held there.

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