March 10, 2017
The Township Committee voted unanimously to accept a proposed settlement between the Township and the owners of Waypoint at their meeting on March 6. The settlement was outlined by Richard Cushing, the attorney retained by the township in the matter. Community interest in the issue remains high, and around 30 residents who live near the proposed facility turned out for the Township Committee meeting. A representative for Waypoint was also present.
One of the issues residents were concerned with involved the administrator of the facility. Waypoint confirmed that this individual is no longer employed by their corporation. Modifications to the property have brought it into full compliance with zoning. Additional concessions won by the town in the settlement include: limiting to 5 the number of concurrent clients at the facility; the establishment of a communication plan for residents to alert the town, the state, and the facility in the event of a disturbance; the installation of a 6’ stockade fence to enclose the rear and sides of the property. Importantly, the facility will be staffed 24 hours per day, which is not always the case at similar residences. In addition, the Waypoint team indicated that they plan to meet with local residents to discuss any concerns they may have. Residents at Waypoint are subject to statutory ‘exclusionary rules’, which means clients with such backgrounds as violent offenses, sexual offenses, or who are active drug users, are excluded from the program. Those who don’t comply with the Code of Conduct will be subject to discharge.
The law is very clear with regard to such facilities. Waypoint is permitted to use the property for the purposes of a rehabilitation facility under the New Jersey Statute which is applicable to mental health/drug dependency rehabilitation. The NJ statute takes precedence over local zoning. Readington had no legal grounds to deny them opening the facility. If the town went to trial and lost, Readington would likely be forced to pay their legal fees plus financial reparation for damages such as lost profits resulting from the delay. These damages alone could run $100,000 per month of delay over the course of a year or more.
The settlement provides more controls and protections than the town would be granted by a judge, whereas continuing litigation would likely result in large attorney’s fees and damages claims.