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By DAVID DRURY, Special to The Courant
The Hartford Courant
7:05 PM EST, February 26, 2013
ROCKY HILL —
A cease-and-desist order has been issued by the town against the owner of 60 West St. for intending to open a "prison/penitentiary" in violation of local zoning.
The order, issued by Assistant Zoning Officer Kim Ricci last week, represents the latest, and perhaps last, legal card left for the town to play before the 95-bed nursing home at 60 West St. is scheduled to begin admitting inmates and state mental patients this Friday.
Ricci's letter to the property owner, SecureCare Realty LLC, restates the town's argument that the state-contracted facility will, in fact, be a prison, a use not allowed within a residential zoning district.
"Furthermore, to the extent that this may be considered an assisted living facility, said use requires the issuance of a special permit. Without a special permit, said use is not an allowable use,'' Ricci wrote.
The property owner has 30 days to appeal the order to the zoning board of appeals.
"If they don't comply, there's a potential for fines and attorney fees. We'll see what they do,'' Town Attorney Morris Borea said Tuesday.
The zoning order represents yet another front in the campaign against the facility being waged in the town. The town has filed a pair of lawsuits, neighboring homeowners are filing their own lawsuit, there has been a petition drive, a spirited state Capitol rally and a bill pending in the General Assembly.
Under a deal negotiated with three state agencies, iCare Management LLC of Manchester agreed to establish a skilled nursing home to provide long-term care to inmates and qualifying mental patients.
A 46-year-old former nursing home shut down by a court receiver was purchased in November for $1.9 million by a newly formed limited liability company, SecureCare Realty. A third entity, SecureCare Options LLC, was established to operate the facility.
The town filed suit in December seeking a permanent injunction against the property owner and facility operator. Town attorneys want a restraining order to prevent the transfer of patients into the home until the trial is held. The defendants oppose such an order, claiming that as agents of the state, they enjoy immunity from suit. They want the case dismissed.
On Monday, Harford Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina heard arguments for and against the suit's dismissal. Robaina has yet to rule on the town's request for a restraining order against iCare and SecureCare, and last week rejected the town's plea for an order preventing State Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen from relicensing the home.
The owners, backed by the state, insist the facility will operate as a skilled nursing center. Patients must meet recognized standards for admission and will receive treatment in what simply is a continuation of a prior, nonconforming use of the property.
Not so, say town leaders who argue that the level of security and restrictions placed on patient movement make the facility a new type of correctional institution, which is either not allowed by zoning or would be subject to local approval.
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