WAYNE, NJ – For more than a year, the owner of the property located at 1777 Hamburg Turnpike has been seeking approval from the Wayne Board of Adjustment (BOA) for a variance to add two new buildings to the property. One of the new buildings would house an urgent care facility while the second would be a 70-bed in-patient facility that would provide subacute detox services for addicts as well as other mental health services.
This was first put forth to the BOA in November 2019 where testimony was taken and the owner of the property, Mahboob Bhatti, initially proposed building an urgent care center and an 80-bed assisted living facility, according to minutes from that meeting.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BOA did not hear further testimony on this proposal until June of 2020. By then, things had changed, and Bhatti amended his proposal, asking for permission to build the 70-bed detox/mental health facility instead of the assisted living facility. There would also be upgrades to the exterior of the existing medical building on the property “to complement what they want to do with the new buildings,” read the minutes of the meeting.
This proposal was again before the BOA in September 2020, and again, most recently on January 19, 2021.
According to Chris Kok, the Wayne Township Planner, Bhatti is seeking a bifurcated use variance, which would allow him to have a vote on the proposed use of the property by the BOA. If the use is approved, then Bhatti would submit a complete site plan to the BOA for a second approval.
The two additional buildings proposed would be one four-story structure of about 46,000 square feet for the detox/mental health facility and a smaller, 4,100 square feet, single story structure for the urgent care facility.
Neighbors in the area have voiced their opposition to the proposal every time it was put before the BOA.
Debbie O’Brien who lives on nearby Sheffield Road stated at the last meeting: “We do not need this put here in a residential neighborhood.”
The property is currently zoned for residential, but in 1971 a variance was given that allowed the existing medical building to be constructed in 1973.
Keith Heyman, who also lives near the property, voiced concern about the people who would be coming to the site for addiction treatment.
“So, going back to the people in the facility,” Heyman said. “These people, they would be there of their own free will, so they are free to go at any time, is that correct?”
His worry was that patients at the detox facility would just walk out and wander into the nearby neighborhoods.
Perry Iasiello, a licensed clinical social worker, mental health practitioner and mental health facility administrator was a witness that testified at the last meeting. He answered, “Technically yes, but there is a process for discharging patients.” He also said, “It would be rare, but you can never say never. These folks are going to want to be there and going to want to receive treatment. No one is there against their will.”
Heyman then voiced a concern about people using drugs in the parking lot.
“These people are living and working in our communities already,” answered Iasiello. “This is a place where [drug use] is not to happen.”
Members of the BOA have been asking similar questions of all the witnesses who have testified over the last fourteen months, including the need for a detox facility in Wayne.
Testimony during the December 2020 meeting from Robert Detore, CEO of Turning Point Inc, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Paterson, answered the question of need. The recorded minutes from that meeting said that last year, Turning Point had 365 Wayne residents at their facility.
Michael Rubin, the attorney representing Bhatti during this process was hoping for a vote on the bifurcated use variance during the recent meeting, but there were not enough members present, so the matter was carried again to March, where a vote should take place.
1777 Hamburg Turnpike is next door to the soon-to-be-developed, affordable housing inclusionary townhouse development at Rockledge.