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Detox Center Reconsideration Postponed Until Nov. 14

Tonight's zoning board meeting has been cancelled. The court-ordered reconsideration of a 2011 denial of a controversial inpatient drug and alcohol detoxification center's application has been reschduled so the "maximum number" of bo

The Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting scheduled for this evening, Oct. 17, has been cancelled.

The matter that the board was set to address – the court-ordered reconsideration of the board’s 2011 denial of a use variance that would have allowed a controversial inpatient drug and alcohol detoxification center to open on Federal City Road – has been rescheduled for the regular zoning board meeting that will be held on Nov. 14.

The meeting was postponed until Nov. 14 so that the “maximum possible number of board members” can be present to take part in the remand proceeding, according to Assistant Township Engineer Brenda Kraemer, who sits on the board.

When the board convenes on Nov. 14, 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 at its Sept. 19 meeting.

It was earlier this year that Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that the zoning board was wrong when in June 2011, 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 in August 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.

Special zoning board meetings are scheduled to be held on Oct. 29 and Nov. 7 but those meetings will involve ongoing testimony concerning the proposed redevelopment of the Mrs. G TV and Appliances property and adjacent vacant lots along Route 1 (Brunswick Pike) at Bakers Basin Road.

 

Previous Coverage

  • Sept. 26, 2012: “Detox Center Decision to be Made by Zoners on Oct. 17”
  • 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

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