The stage is now set for the Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment to reconsider its 2011 denial of a use variance that would have allowed a controversial inpatient drug and alcohol detoxification center to open on Federal City Road.
At its meeting last Wednesday evening (Sept. 19), the board announced that the reconsideration – ordered by Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson – will take place on Oct. 17.
On that date, board members will deliberate and vote on the detox center’s variance application, using as their guide the 40 or so hours of previous testimony given between November 2010 and June 2011.
No further public comment on the application, either written or oral, will be allowed, the board decided last week.
It was in June of this year that Jacobson ruled that the zoning board was wrong when, by a 4-2 vote, it decided the proposed detox center was “not inherently beneficial” under state law and, in turn, denied the variance application.
John Simone, the developer who owns the property, and Sunrise Detox, the Florida-based company that would run the 38-bed inpatient facility, last year filed a lawsuit to appeal the zoning board’s decision.
The board’s rejection of the variance application came after nine exhausting and often-heated zoning board hearings that featured testimony from supporters of the plan – who claimed that a need exists in the area for detoxification services – and those vehemently opposed to the idea, including nearby residents who said they feared for their safety and believed such a facility should not be located so close to residential neighborhoods.
The building in question at 100 Federal City Rd. sits at the entrance to the Traditions at Federal Point adult community and directly behind the homes in another development that includes Frederick Court and Karena Lane. In addition to their concerns about safety, neighbors objected to the increased traffic and noise – particularly from delivery trucks – that would come from the facility, which would include fulltime kitchen and laundry facilities.
The zoning board’s reconsideration of the application was delayed last month after a potential conflict of interest involving a board member came to light. That individual – acting as a “citizen witness,” prior to his being appointed to the zoning board – had testified at one of the detox center hearings.
The board directed attorney George Dougherty, retained as “special counsel” to represent the board in the reconsideration, to seek guidance from Judge Jacobson about the potential conflict.
But prior to the judge issuing a decision, the board member voluntarily recused himself, it was revealed last week.
The recusal of that member should not hinder a vote on Oct. 17. Six board members took part in the initial vote last year, and the same number is expected to take part in the reconsideration vote.
- Aug 21, 2012; ‘Potential Conflict Delays Detox Denial Reconsideration”
- June 8, 2012: “Zoning Board Ordered to Reconsider Detox Center Denial”
- Sept. 20, 2011: Lawsuit Filed Over Denial of Variance for Detox Facility
- Aug. 19, 2011: Zoning Board Memorializes Decision in Detox Case
- Aug. 10, 2011: Developer Moving Forward With His Efforts to Open Outpatient Detox Facility in Lawrence Twp. Building
- June 23, 2011: Zoning Board Denies Variance for Detox Center
- June 22, 2011: Decision Due Tonight on Controversial Detox Center
- June 2, 2011: Public Comment on Detox Center Proposal Now Over
- June 1, 2011: Ninth Hearing Over Proposed Detox Center Tonight
- May 27, 2011: Still No Resolution in Case of Proposed Detox Center
- May 25, 2011: Public Gets Another Chance to Speak Out About Detox Center Proposal During Zoning Board Hearing Tonight
- May 13, 2011: Residents Speak Out Against Proposed Detox Center
- May 11, 2011: 7th Hearing on Controversial Detox Center Tonight
- April 27, 2011: Debate Over Proposed Detox Center Resumes Tonight
- March 19, 2011: Final Witnesses Testify on Behalf of Proposed Detox Center; 6th Hearing Before Zoning Board Set for April
- Feb. 9, 2011:
- Jan. 24, 2011: Debate Continues Over Proposed Rehab Center
- Dec. 23, 2010: More Hearings for Proposed Rehab Center