Methadone clinic site flexible?

Friday, October 16, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON -- The methadone clinic that wanted to locate here has found an alternate site, according to court records filed in a federal lawsuit against the city.

The lawsuit claims the city violated federal anti-discrimination laws in denying the Pittsburgh-based MX Group's request to locate at Covington Station, 200 W. Pike St., 660 feet from John G. Carlisle Elementary School.

A March 17 memorandum from Zoning Administrator Ralph Hopper to City Manager Greg Jarvis refers to a Latonia site at 1 W. 43rd St. as an alternate.

"This is to be their backup location if they are unsuccessful with the court actions," the memorandum says. The note is part of Mr. Hopper's Sept. 2 deposition in the case.

MX Group project manager Edith McNeill said Thursday that many sites have been examined, but nothing is actively being looked at other than the Covington Station location. "We are not at this present time looking at another site," she said.

Police, numerous neighbors and business owners have opposed it, saying the clinic would hurt Covington's image and would promote crime in the area.

Clinic supporters say the treatment center is needed in the area. Methadone is used to wean addicts off heroin and other narcotics. Ms. McNeill said the clinic could be elsewhere in Northern Kentucky, but Covington would be well-served by it. "We still maintain we have a service that we can provide."

Mr. Hopper's deposition and memorandum also conflict on whether the clinic at the Latonia location would meet the zoning code.

Mr. Hopper referred questions to City Solicitor Joe Condit, who said approval would depend on how a request was worded. Mr. Condit said he had heard the MX Group was looking at a Latonia site.

Mr. Hopper's memorandum says the area is in a shopping center zone, which allows medical or dental offices. "Therefore, I can only conclude that the use would be permitted," Mr. Hopper said in the memorandum.

According to the deposition, the memorandum was written in response to a call from Ms. McNeill about the Latonia site. In his testimony, Mr. Hopper said he initially told her it would be permitted. He then wrote the city manager, saying new zoning regulations that had been proposed but not voted on needed to be brought to the city commission in case the MX Group lawsuit failed and the company looked to other sites. "We need to have provisions in place to attempt to control any future locations," Mr. Hopper's memorandum says. The deposition then refers to a later conversation, in which Mr. Hopper told Ms. McNeill that the clinic would not be permissible at the Latonia site.

On Thursday, Ms. McNeill said she did not recall the conversations with Mr. Hopper about the Latonia site.

Clinic attorney William Oldfield did not return a phone call Thursday.

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