A large group of residents living near the Tollgate Hill Inn on Torrington Road are opposing a plan to convert the 28-year-old inn into a 30-bed behavioral treatment facility for adults.
About 30 residents turned out Monday for the start of the Planning and Zoning Commission's public hearing on the proposal by Blue Sky Behavioral Health LLC, whose chief executive officer is David Palmer of New Milford.
Blue Sky is asking planning and zoning to grant a special exception that would change the use of Tollgate, which is for sale, from inn to hospital. The public hearing is scheduled to resume July 19.
Under the proposal, the Blue Sky Behavioral Hospital would treat adults with bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and substance abuse issues, according to Palmer.
Palmer attended the hearing and said Tollgate was selected because the region is underserved in the area of mental health treatment. If planning and zoning approves the proposal, Blue Sky would purchase the inn.
Blue Sky's lawyer, Robert Fisher of Litchfield, said admission to the hospital would be voluntary and all patients would be screened before entering. None of the patients would be referred by state agencies and they would not be confined to the hospital, according to Fisher.
Residents who spoke trashed the plan, saying it would cause safety problems in the area and would lower property values.
"I don't want some guy with schizophrenia checking himself out in the middle of the night and wandering over to my house 350 feet away," said Steve McDonald of Torrington Road. "I don't want this across the street from me and my family. I want to sleep comfortably at night."
Selling his property would be difficult if Tollgate were to become a hospital, McDonald added.
"That hospital would be a white elephant," he said.
Joe Manes of Wilson Road submitted a petition signed by 146 residents asking planning and zoning to deny Blue Sky's application.
Along with concerns about safety and property values, residents said a hospital would strain the town's emergency medical services and police.
Manes said he was told the hospital would treat pedophiles, which Fisher said is untrue. There would be no sexual offenders at the facility, he said, nor would there be patients with histories of violence.
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