A Monroe County judge has reversed a decision by Smithfield Township supervisors that would have permitted a 50-bed inpatient drug and alcohol rehab center to be built at the clubhouse of the former Water Gap Country Club.
The plan to convert the clubhouse to a rehab has been widely criticized by neighbors, who have cited concerns over the values of their homes and security issues, among others, at six public hearings.
The proposed rehab is in a residential zone, Judge Arthur Zulick’s opinion noted, and there is no zone where such a facility is listed as a permitted use.
The township zoning officer, K.A. Wolfe, came to the same conclusion and recommended the supervisors should decide where rehabs should be located in Smithfield.
After the six public hearings, the supervisors unanimously decided last August that the R-1 residential zone where the clubhouse is located was the appropriate zone for a drug and alcohol rehab center, and granted conditional use to the golf course rehab, subject to meeting conditional use provisions of the township ordinance, the opinion noted.
In reviewing the case, Zulick, in a 20-page opinion and order, said it presents itself on an unusual footing, because although this is a land use appeal that concerns the Smithfield Supervisors’ decision in interpreting the township zoning ordinance, the township treated the supervisors’ hearings and decision as being controlled by the "local agency law."
"The township overlooks that fact that the Municipalities Planning Code must be the source of the supervisors’ statutory authority to act in this zoning matter," Zulick wrote, adding, "The township candidly acknowledges that the supervisors did not have jurisdiction to make their adjudication in this land use decision under the MPC."
Zulick added: "The supervisors could have followed amendment procedures to address the shortcoming of the ordinance."
Zulick continued, "The supervisors did not formally amend the ordinance, and did not use the powers granted them under the MPC to adjudicate a conditional use ... The significant question here is whether the supervisors’ action was one of general applicability to the residents of the township or whether their adjudication only affected Water Gap’s property."
The supervisors’ decision was appealed Nov. 12, 2019, by John Shoemaker, William Buzzard, Terrence Fagan, Maryann Fagan, Neferetiti Campbell, Tony Ganci, Valerie Ganci, Joseph Iudicello, Marshall Anders, Patricia Anders, Bradley Rinschler, Terry Lynn Tell, and Richard Oshrin.
Zulick said he was reversing the supervisors’ decision because they "did not have jurisdiction to make that determination without amending the zoning ordinance."