By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
The agreement between the owner of the Laingdon Hotel on Ocean Avenue and the Sprout Health Co. was evidently decided upon last summer. The plan was to open a drug rehabilitation facility in that historic hotel after getting a use-variance from the Neptune Board of Adjustment. Essential to those best laid plans was the need to close the hotel to the public and to use it to house addicted individuals who would stay there for up to 30 days while undergoing treatment at the Sprout clinic in Eatontown.
Most Grovers who weighed in on Blogfinger were opposed for a variety of reasons. An intelligent discussion ensued, and there were no personal attacks–just identification of the issues. No one disparaged those unfortunate patients who would have been candidates to stay in the OG facility. No one got to attack the owner for wanting to make a profit on his investment or the company whose business is to help others.
It’s just that the people of Ocean Grove did not believe that such a project would be suitable in our town for a variety of well considered reasons.
This was not a blind case of “not in our backyard.” Not every town is appropriate for setting up shelters for the unfortunate. I doubt you would find a drug rehab facility in Colonial Williamsburg, but that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t be located in a town nearby. The citizens of Ocean Grove would likely be supportive of such a project in a neighboring town where the fit would be more sensible.
Importantly, the discussion of the Laingdon did allow the consideration of a bigger picture: Ocean Grove is vulnerable to the conversion of historic buildings into uses that do not fit our Master Plan or the designation of our town on the National and State Historic Registers. It’s work to keep those designations, and “if you don’t use it, you will lose it.” If the Laingdon idea had been implemented, then a dangerous precedent would have given permission to approve all sorts of decidedly non-historic projects that would change our town forever. Now perhaps such projects would be discouraged.
The Laingdon opposition is only one piece of a town-wide effort which will be required to avoid more condominiums and commercialization while pushing for continued development as a single family residential/historic community.
There is a need for a group of citizens to dedicate themselves to be watchdogs on behalf of the town of Ocean Grove. It will require standing up to Neptune Township politicians, developers, and to the derelict HOA to beat back the anti- RSIS crowd.
Vigilance is the key word in the future, because other mice and men with big plans will try to nibble away at this very special town, turning it into Asbury Park south or Bradley-Beach-By-the Sea. Even Sprout might show up again with a renewed application.
Just because the Laingdon plan has caved, doesn’t mean that we should not keep watching and discussing how to protect the Grove. After all, it all depends on you.
FRANK SINATRA from The Columbia Years.