February 22, 2015
The former Holly Thorn House on Readington Road has been leased to Waypointe, a company that intends to convert it to a live-in community residence for young men with mental health diagnoses. This has come to light only recently because the intended use for the property requires no approval from Township officials and does not entail any variances. The legal basis for installation of a mental health residence, regardless of Township ordinances and without prior notification, is supported by the New Jersey Community Health Law (1). With the goal of preventing discrimination against persons with disabilities, provisions of the Community Health Law and the Fair Housing Act result in very little ability of municipalities to regulate community homes.
When Mayor Fort first learned of this from concerned residents, she met with representatives of the company and also began investigating with land-use experts whether the property can be used for this purpose. She and the other members of the Township Committee are reviewing the governing laws and gathering information to provide direction and address questions from the community. They are also exploring the role that the Township may have in ensuring the safe operation of the Waypointe home, which is licensed and regulated by the State.
At the urging of Mayor Fort, Waypointe had scheduled a meeting for February 23rd to field questions from concerned Readington citizens. However, Waypointe unexpectedly cancelled the meeting at the advice of their attorney.
There was a great deal of discussion of this issue at the February 16th Township Committee meeting. Residents living in proximity to the property expressed deep concern about possible safety concerns and how their property values might be affected. Although Waypointe had no obligation to present a plan to the Township or notify neighboring residents, they greatly underestimated the reactions of the neighbors and made no attempt to survey the community before moving forward. CFR will be staying tuned to this matter and encourage all those with concerns to attend the meeting on Tuesday evening. More information about Waypointe’s mission and program can be found on their website (2).
(1) State of NJ Department of Human Services. Community Health Law Report – Section 1. Accessed at http://www.nj.gov/humanservices/clients/disability/goodneighbors/law_report1.html
(2) Waypointe. http://www.findyourwaypointe.com/about.html