Newbury, citizens group lose longshot bid for new review of secure juvenile facility case 

The Newbury property under consideration at a Development Review Board hearing to consider the application by Vermont Permanency Initiative seeking approval to operate the “Woodside Replacement.” The meeting took place at Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, Vt., on Saturday, October 2, 2021. (Rob Strong photograph)

The Newbury property under consideration at a Development Review Board hearing to consider the application by Vermont Permanency Initiative seeking approval to operate the “Woodside Replacement.” The meeting took place at Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, Vt., on Saturday, October 2, 2021. (Rob Strong photograph) Rob Strong

By ALAN J. KEAYS

VTDigger

Published: 01-23-2024 8:37 PM

The Vermont Supreme Court has quickly rejected bids by the town of Newbury and a citizens group to reconsider a ruling last month that cleared the way for the state to open a secure facility for youth involved in the criminal system.

The town and the citizens group, Concerned4Newbury, had filed motions before the state’s highest court late last month. They sought to reargue an earlier December decision issued against them and their efforts to block the state from moving ahead with the youth facility in Newbury.

A one-line ruling signed by all five justices and issued Jan. 10 stated that the town and citizens group failed to meet the requirements to merit the reargument of a case. As a result, their motions were denied. 

Justice Karen Carroll, who issued a dissenting opinion to the high court’s earlier ruling in December, signed onto the more recent unanimous decision denying the motions for reargument. Motions to reargue a case before the Vermont Supreme Court are rarely granted. In fiscal year 2020, the most recent year with available statistics, the high court received 35 motions for reargument, granting only five, including some that were only partially granted.

The state proposed a six-bed secure residential treatment facility for young people in Newbury after its only juvenile detention center was closed in Essex in 2020. The facility, called Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, had faced accusations of excessive force and improper use of restraints and seclusion.

But the Newbury proposal faced stiff opposition from local residents raised for more than two years through zoning and legal proceedings.

The state Department for Children and Families had contended that the facility should not be considered a detention facility but a “group home” for children with disabilities, which would limit the town zoning board’s ability to prevent its development under current law.

Chris Winters, the department’s commissioner, said in an email Monday the state appreciated the court’s decision and recognized the need to “re-engage” with the community before moving ahead.

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“This is a statewide system of care with varying levels of treatment needs to address in multiple locations and programs,” Winters wrote. “We are taking another look at those treatment needs of the many children and youth across Vermont and our ability to provide them with the services they deserve in a safe environment to see how the Newbury site fits into those plans.”

James Barlow, an attorney representing the town of Newbury, said Monday that the town was “deeply disappointed in the entire process” culminating with the most recent ruling.

“At the end of the day the victims of the Supreme Court’s decision will be the juveniles held in the facility on the pretense it is a group home,” Barlow said.