CRANBURY, NJ – With a suite spot in mind, Alpha Healing Center went before the Zoning Board of Adjustment recently to discuss booking an extended stay in the township.
Nearly 90 people came out to the board's meeting July 1 to hear Alpha Healing's application to turn the Staybridge Suites hotel on South River Road into an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
Currently, the company operates an outpatient rehab facility in Jersey City and has another outpatient facility in the works in South Brunswick, according to its website.
It also has plans to open an inpatient facility in Vadodara, India, according to the website.
After testifying as the first of Alpha Healing's four witnesses, CEO Tom Allen fielded questions from board members, board professionals and members of the public.
Many of the questions posed sought to clarify the way a rehab facility operates, while others wanted to know what sort of risk to the community the facility would bring.
When the floor was opened to questions from the public, Tim Brennan asked Allen several questions and helped him out with the answers.
“Do you know how far the closest home is to your facility?” Brennan said. “One hundred and sixty meters. Closest child care facility? Two hundred and eighty meters. There's two of them within 300 meters of your facility. Closest liquor store? Four hundred and sixty meters.”
As the father of two young children, Allen said he understands the community concern and that he would want to make sure anything coming into his town was as safe as possible as well.
“At some point, I would hope to collaborate with the community,” he said. “Our biggest testament is typically a year after we open, nobody cares, nobody knows we're there. There's no issues or concerns.”
Much of the initial push back from communities where Alpha Healing is presently located or is trying to open is the result of town rumor mills going into overdrive, Allen said.
“It's usually a lot of misinformation or false stereotypes,” he said.
As a prelude to the meeting, Staybridge Suites' liquor license came up for annual renewal at the last Township Committee meeting on June 22.
Committee members David Cook, Glenn Johnson and Susan Goetz voted to renew the license and the motion carried, while Mayor Jay Taylor and Deputy Mayor Dan Mulligan voted against it.
In separate emails, Taylor and Mulligan both said that they could not “in good faith” vote to renew Staybridge Suites' liquor license when the hotel might be converted to a drug and alcohol rehab facility in the near future.
During discussion at the meeting, Goetz pointed out that if the applicant is denied by the board, and is unable to turn the hotel into a rehab facility, it would remain a hotel and would require a liquor license.
Because the license is tied to the use, the license renewal would only be valid if the property continued to function as a hotel.
In other words, Staybridge Suites' liquor license would not transfer to Alpha Healing Center, should the board grant the use variance and allow the facility to open.
The board will continue to hear testimony regarding Alpha Healing's application at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the Large Community Group Room, at the Cranbury School.
Staybridge Suites is located at 1272 South River Road.