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Sex offender counseling center gets more time to leave Beacon Street building

The owner of a Beacon Street building is working to relocate a counseling center that treats sex offenders, but has received more time to respond to the city’s order that the center leave its building.

Two weeks ago, the city of Concord revoked a zoning approval at 2½ Beacon St. for RTT Associates. An 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted while sleeping in her nearby home this spring, allegedly by a man who attended sex offender counseling sessions in the Beacon Street building.

Property owner David Ossoff said he’s working with RTT Associates to find a new location. He said he received a letter from the city yesterday that allowed 16 more days to evict RTT, and 30 days to decide whether to appeal to the city’s zoning board.

“I am aware that they’ve been trying to find other space in the city of Concord,” Ossoff said.

Zoning Administrator Craig Walker acknowledged that he had initially suggested an aggressive timeline. His letter revoking the zoning exception for RTT’s location cited the recent assault and said it “is a hazard to the health safety and general welfare of the public and is detrimental and out of character with the adjacent neighborhood.”

Yesterday, Walker confirmed that the city is granting Ossoff more time to respond. “Let’s work together on this to do the right thing,” he said, summing up his message to Ossoff and RTT.

City Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton, whose ward includes Beacon Street, said she hopes RTT Associates can find an “appropriately zoned location” to treat sex offenders.

“I just hope that this will be accomplished quickly so that this neighborhood can begin to heal,” she said in an email.

Walker’s first letter to Ossoff came last month, after Grady Sexton asked officials to review the issue. Residents expressed concern to her after a 42-year-old man was charged with sexually assaulting a young girl in her bedroom on North State Street. The police said the girl’s mother found a man kneeling at her daughter’s bed just before 4 a.m. May 10, with his hands on her buttocks under the sheets.

When David Mandigo of Concord was arraigned on felony charges of burglary and sexual assault for the incident, a prosecutor said he was a client at RTT Associates. Mandigo has a history of sexually related crimes.

The 11-year-old girl’s mother told the Monitor last month that her family is struggling to feel safe at home, in part because RTT Associates is still in their neighborhood.

Grady Sexton, who lives on Beacon Street and works for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the city’s action has eased some residents’ concerns.

“Neighbors have been relieved to hear that the property owner is working in good faith to help relocate the sex offender treatment facility to another location,” she said in an email.

Simon Leeming, Ossoff’s attorney, said his client is aware of neighbors’ concerns. Leeming is working with RTT Associates and city officials to resolve the issue.

“We will continue those discussions in good faith and attempt to relocate RTT,” Leeming wrote in a letter to Walker, dated Friday.

Roger Chadwick, RTT’s attorney, didn’t return a message left yesterday afternoon. He previously told the Monitor that RTT would like to fight Walker’s decision.

By receiving additional time to respond to the city’s order, Ossoff didn’t lose the right to appeal the city’s order. Leeming said he doesn’t yet know whether Ossoff will pursue that option.

“At this point it’s not clear because . . . as is typical of these matters, there’s a fairly complicated set of facts and obligations that we have to resolve,” Leeming said.

RTT Associates has been in the 2½ Beacon St. building since 2005. City officials didn’t learn of its presence until 2011. Walker required the property owner to apply that year for a zoning special exception, which the zoning board approved. Though the office building is in a downtown residential zoning district, it has a zoning variance for office space. RTT is a social service center under the city’s zoning ordinance. The company treats sex offenders, but also provides counseling for substance abuse, anger management, families and sexual assault victims, according to its website.

Ossoff purchased the building later in 2011, after the zoning exception was approved. Yesterday, he said he’s still trying to address the issue quickly, but needs more time.

“We’re just trying to use the time to resolve it,” he said. “On very short deadlines it’s hard to sometimes get things worked out.”

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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