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Testimony Begins As Town Leaders Argue Against Rocky Hill Nursing Home

During testimony Tuesday morning, Rocky Hill town officials said a nursing home facility operated by SecureCare at 60 West St. violates the town zoning code.

"The people who reside there are under the auspices of the Department of Corrections and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services," Town Planner Kim Ricci said Tuesday.

Ricci's testimony was part of the first day of a trial in front of Judge Marshall K. Berger in Hartford Superior Court that will decided whether the facility is in violation of the town's policies. The center of the town's argument was that 60 West St. does not serve traditional nursing home patients, and should not be allowed to operate in a residential area without prior zoning approval.

The nursing home opened in 2013 and provides skilled care to selected prison parolees and state mental patients — patients who are often difficult to place in traditional nursing homes.

The 95 bed facility takes referrals from the state Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services as well as the Department of Corrections. Many of the patients are paroled prisoners.

Currently, the facility houses 13 paroled prisoners and Rocky Hill Town Attorney Morris Borea said the patients include people convicted of violent crimes.

"Before the opening of this facility, there were not this number of parolees and sex offenders in Rocky Hill," Rocky Hill Police Lieutenant Brian Klett said.

Attorney Jonathan Starble, who represents SecureCare, said that the nursing home is not a Department of Corrections facility and said its zoning approval should not be contingent on who occupies the property.

"You have an apartment in Rocky Hill and someone lives there who is under the auspices of the Department of Corrections, someone who reports to the Department of Corrections, someone who is accountable to the Department of Corrections — does that fact make the use of the building not permissible?" he asked.

In her testimony Ricci responded that the pipeline of paroled prisoners to 60 West is what sets it apart from similar facilities.

Starble countered that paroled prisoners and sex offenders could live anywhere in town without violating the zoning code.

"You do understand that there are sex offenders in your town who live in houses...and that fact doesn't change the use of that property in town?" he asked.

This week's trial is not the first time the town of Rocky Hill has taken SecureCare to court. In 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court rejected an argument from SecureCare that by operating as an arm of the state, the nursing home had sovereign immunity.

Neighbors have also filed a separate suit against SecureCare, claiming the operation of 60 West St. has decreased the value of their properties.

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