Former town office may turn into sober home

TIM GANNON PHOTO | This building, across the street from town hall, will be subject to a public hearing shortly.
TIM GANNON PHOTO | This building, across the street from town hall, will be subject to a public hearing shortly.

A building that had recently been used as a temporary office for the Riverhead Town Building Department is now being proposed as a home for recovering drug users and alcoholics.

Mainstream House, a Riverhead-based sober house for men, is seeking a special permit from the town to use the building directly across from Town Hall on 755 East Main Street as a home for 12 to 13 men who have undergone treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, according to Bob Hartmann Jr, the founder of Mainstream House and himself a recovered addict.

The proposal was discussed at last Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session.

Mainstream House is a for-profit organization that is not tax exempt and the people it treats pay their own way, according to Mr. Hartmann, who is looking to lease the building.

Town officials said that under the town code, the use is treated as a single-family residence, which is permitted with a special permit in the “downtown center-3 office district” zone it is located in. A special permit requires a public hearing before the Town Board can approved it, and town officials agreed to schedule a public hearing on the proposal.

Mainstream House already has seven sober houses for men in the town, and Mr. Hartmann said he would eliminate one of them if this site is approved, although he added that he may want to reopen the the closed site as a sober home for women.

“I know where four of the houses are and when you go past them, you don’t think that anybody is living there at all,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “There’s no one hanging out in front, and they don’t make any noise.”

Mainstream House works with the Suffolk County and East End Drug courts as well as treatment facilities and the Long Island Council on Drug Dependency  for referrals. The clients must stay at least four months, they must get a job, and they must attend 12-step meetings and get a sponsor. The home will also have a manager on site, Mr. Hartmann said, and clients are screened for alcohol and drug use.

“We have a track record,” Mr. Hartmann told the Town Board at last Thursday’s work session. “We have minimal police contact.”

Supervisor Sean Walter said the board will probably put a limit on the number of people that can live in the facility.

The town had rented the building as a temporary home for its building department for about two years after a fire damaged the building department office on Howell Avenue in April 2010. The town moved out of the rented building in January 2012.

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