On November 22, 2019 Monroe County Judge Zulick issued a stay of proceedings to Smithfield Township concerning conditional use for the proposed Water Gap Wellness Center. This proposed facility is located in a R-1 zone in Smithfield Township directly bordering a R-1 zone in Delaware Water Gap Borough.
The proposed alcohol and drug rehab center will be treating substance abuse addiction which is a medical illness as stated by the facilities medical director, Dr. Robert Morrow.
These patients will be treated with medication assisted treatments including Naltrexone to reduce cravings for opiates and alcohol and Suboxone for longer term opiate blocking according to Dr. Morrow. The medical therapeutic staff will include a medical director who is a licensed physician, a clinical director, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, medical assistants and “clinical leadership personnel” according to Joseph Schlim the sole principal of Water Gap Capital Partners, LLC, who is proposing this facility.
The intent of Smithfield Township’s B-2 zone is as follows; B-2 Business and Professional Office/Medical District: This district is intended to be a transitional district between the more intense commercial districts and the residential districts. It is intended to provide opportunities for business and professional offices and medical facilities needed to serve the township and the surrounding community.
The principal permitted uses in B-2 are; medical center, medical office, medical residential campus, nursing home or skilled nursing, rehabilitation facility, specialty hospital, assisted living facilities, continuing care facilities, agriculture, mortuary and/or funeral home, municipal building and uses, place of worship and offices.
The intent of Smithfield Township’s R-1 Low Density Residential District is as follows: this district includes large land areas that should, to the degree practical, be developed in a manner that preserves their open space character and natural amenities. Permanent and seasonal residences at low density, as well as recreational uses, resorts, camps, wildlife preserves and other types of uses compatible with the natural environment are appropriate.
The principal permitted uses in R-1 are: one-family detached dwellings (1 per lot), conservation subdivisions, commercial seasonal camps, communication towers on municipal property, forestry and forest reserves, wildlife refuges, membership; clubs, camps and associations, municipal recreation and entertainment facilities on lots of five or more acres in land area.
Conditional uses in R-1 are: agriculture, assisted living facilities, bed and breakfasts, cemeteries, day care facilities(home care only), federal, state and county buildings and uses, place of worship, planned residential developments, professional and home occupations, public utility structure, resorts, schools, colleges and education facilities, commercial stables(as part of resort)
Clearly the proposed Water Gap Wellness Center is a medical facility; it will be treating patients with a medical illness, using medications and staffed with medical personnel.
Smithfield Township zoning has a place for this type of medical facility, it is in their zone B-2.
On November 4, 2019 the Borough of Delaware Water Gap passed resolution #2019-005: The Council of the Borough of Delaware Water Gap hereby expresses its opposition to the drug, alcohol and substance abuse treatment facility called Water Gap Wellness Center proposed to be located immediately adjacent to a residential neighborhood in the Borough of Delaware Water Gap because the proposed use is not compatible with or appropriate for a low density residential zoning district.
The supervisors of Smithfield Township vote to approve a medical facility in zone R-1 as a conditional use does not adhere to their own zoning.
This decision also sets a precedent for future projects that are not accepted uses in a R-1 zone for approval under conditional use.
Elvi De Lotto is a former member of the Delaware Water Gap Planning Commission and former three-term DWG Borough councilmember. Pocono Record My Turn columns highlight notable local opinions from Monroe County and beyond. Submit your My Turn ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.