By Max Bowen
North Attleborough residents have learned of a new facility to be established on the property of the Hixon House and are worried what the impacts to the neighborhood will be.
According to Philip Shea, president and CEO of Community Counseling of Bristol County [CCBC], the nonprofit organization will be opening a group living environment at 152 S. Washington St. through a contract from the Department of Mental Health. It’s expected to be open within the next two months and will serve people recovering from mental illness. He said they will be mostly older adults and will not pose a danger to themselves or others. Educational programs for daily care and self-care will be included to prepare them for going back into the community.
“These are individuals who have suffered a devastating level of illness,” said Shea. “Our effort is to invest in their recovery so they can live full and satisfying lives in the community.”
Known as the Hixon, Edgar L. – Fisher, Harry W. House, the building on S. Washington Street was built in 1881 and categorized as an English Revival-style building. It’s located in the South Washington Street Historic District and added to the National Register District in October 1995. Shea said minor changes are planned to the building, such as updating the electrical systems. He said development beyond the building is not planned.
“We have no plans to alter the historical or architectural importance of the exterior or interior of the building,” said Shea.
When asked why CCBC purchased one home as opposed to a few smaller ones, Shea said the DPH had identified a need for a group living environment with space for eight people, and choosing one building was the more efficient option.
The house sits on an 11.9-acre parcel of land. It is bordered by the Ten Mile River, and nearby wetlands will prevent further development. It was sold in August. According to Zillow, the estimated value is $975,934.
On Monday, Oct. 14, a meeting was held by neighbors to discuss the project. Buddy Cote, a friend of an abutter to the project, served as the moderator. He said the key was to not go by rumors and make sure misinformation was not present. Approximately 60 people were in attendance.
“We’re just trying to divine and understand why the proposal is being made,” he said.
Acting Town Manager Michael Gallagher said he learned of the sale on Oct. 10. The project is exempt from zoning requirements due in part to the Dover Amendment. This law exempts agricultural, religious, and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions, with this facility falling under the category of Educational. Gallagher added that some permits will need to be applied for through the Building Department to make changes to the structure.
“It is a challenge, but there’s nothing we can do,” he said.
The residents agreed that the best approach would be to reach out to the CEO to share their concerns over what will be done to the site, the people who will live there, and if the historical aspects of the home can be maintained.