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Riverhead sober house plan draws support

Mainstream House, a Riverhead-based sober house for men,

Mainstream House, a Riverhead-based sober house for men, is seeking a special permit from the town to use this home at 755 East Main St. on Riverhead Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

A proposal to open a sober house in a building across from Riverhead’s Town Hall drew nearly 20 people to Tuesday’s town board meeting, almost all of them speaking in favor of the plan.

Most, including Greg Conrad of Riverhead, spoke of problems with addiction and how it harms families, and praised Mainstream House and its founder, Robert Hartman, for turning around their lives.

Hartman, a former potato farmer who runs several other sober houses in Riverhead, is seeking a special permit to allow a now-closed building at 755 E. Main St. -- originally built as a house and later rezoned as an office building -- to again be used as a residence. He plans to run it as a seven-bedroom sober house.

“It’s a family atmosphere that is needed. This house would be given a real meaning once again,” he said.

Only one man spoke against the plan, saying it could increase crime downtown.

In contrast, Larry Oxman, who owns and rents several downtown buildings, said he supported the proposal. “I don’t see any kind of detriment at all. I would be happy to show property next door,” he said.

The Riverhead Town Board kept its hearing open for written comments until Feb. 14, and Supervisor Sean Walter said the special permit request would come up for a vote at the regular town board meeting on Feb. 19. He said he expects the board to approve it.

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