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 exit 100 off the GSP.


Exit 100 off the GSP.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

The deal to turn the Laingdon Hotel into a substance treatment center on Main Avenue was hatched last August—before the presidential election.  In our discussions about this matter, we learned something about the economics and we found out that such facilities can be very lucrative, especially for those high end clients who probably would have been found at the new Sprout/Laingdon location. But we also found out that insurance money is available for patients, including those who are not wealthy, such as those under Medicaid.    Also we spoke about a law enforcement program which lets drug criminals enter rehab instead of going to jail.

And that money trail exposed why entrepreneurs were interested in such facilities.

Our discussion also revealed that Ocean Grove still has  multifamily dwellings  and some multi-unit boarding houses such as the Whitfield (now deceased) and the Warrington  (now unoccupied and  aspiring to be an expensive “boutique hotel.”)

But a rehab facility could be created in a smallish multi-family house, even of only 2 or 3 units, just as such places could also be condoized, and neither use seems to be good for the town.   But the pressure to find new sources of investment income in OG could grow even larger, given the rising spending on healthcare.

Now the Grove is in danger of going viral with such “medical shelters” for addicts (rich or poor), Mary’s style clients, or whatever such “shelters” might be devised  by inventive investors.

Those who lived in this town in the 1980’s vividly recall all the “shelters” that were found around the Grove, and many of those attracted unattractive residents who hung out in various favored locations, smoking, yelling, sleeping on benches, and smelling.  We have heard of some of that from  residents who lived here during that era who are now dismayed that we might move in that direction once again.

But why would Neptune Township allow such deterioration?  Well, there are those in the Grove who believe that  Neptune officials really don’t care much about Ocean Grove and would be happy for it to slide into the abyss, as long as the tax dollars continue to flow in one form or another. And there are the local developers who are happy to exploit the town for money regardless of the consequences in terms of crowding, parking, and lifestyle deterioration.

However, during our last look at this subject,  before we could really sink our digital teeth into the rehab/Laingdon matter, the application for a use-variance at the Zoning Board of Adjustment was abruptly withdrawn, and we don’t know why.  Maybe the Blogfinger poll and citizen comments scared them away, but more likely we could find the answer by following the money.  Being unpopular with the OG public has never frightened the Neptune Township and Ocean Grove movers and shakers when money was at stake.

The Township ZBA office denies knowing anything about the withdrawal. But on January 14, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal by Jeanne Whalen in the US News section, page A-3. which might shed some light on the situation. It was sent to us by a citizen reporter.

In it she explains that there are provisions under the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) that forces ACA insurance providers to pay for addiction rehab. The amount of money available that way is “huge,” as it tries to chase the widespread increase in deaths due to opioids such as heroine and fentanyl, especially in the north east, including Monmouth County.

According to the WSJ, “There are 2.8 million Americans with substance abuse disorders who would lose some or all of their insurance if the ACA is repealed.”

“Researchers at Harvard Medical School and NYU estimated a repeal would withdraw at least $5.5 billion annually from the treatment of mental health conditions including substance abuse.”

So, is there any wonder that investors have been  sniffing around our town thinking of rehab facilities as sources of healthcare income?  And perhaps, after Trump won, Sprout may have freaked out and chosen to drop the  Laingdon idea.

But, because the opioid addiction problem is growing and harming families and small businesses, the new administration might be compelled to keep the money coming, and if so, OG is really a perfect place to open rehab. facilities.

If Mary’s Place could get zoning approval for their “shelter” without even a variance, then you’d better not pout, you’d better not cry–I’m telling you why:  Santa Claus is coming to town and he has goodies in his sleigh for those who want to help addicts in the Grove.

THE PUPPINI SISTERS:

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The winter view from Ocean Avenue in the Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo.

The winter view from Ocean Avenue in the Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo.

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @ Blogfinger.net

We know that Sprout Co. is looking to buy the Laingdon Hotel on Ocean Avenue  presumably to turn it into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility of some sort; the details have not been spelled out.  The person who owns the property has said nothing publicly about his plans, but that is par for the course when it comes to developers in the Grove, including those who live here.  We understand that the sale is contingent on getting zoning approval, but we do not know that for sure.

Even though the Zoning Board of Adjustment has yet to hear the application, Blogfinger has been hearing from quite a few Grovers on the subject.  For the week  of January 2, we had over 5,000 visits, and this topic has garnered the most interest.  You should all read the article below and the 30 comments that have appeared so far. Clearly this will be a hot topic.  Please continue to comment at that location but you can also comment under this editorial.

Even though Sprout hasn’t offered any details, we can already see that there are a variety of ways to think about the matter. To begin with, Jack Bredin has been focusing on the zoning issues because there is no provision in our zoning ordinances for a drug rehab facility, and even if Sprout wins an approval of a rehab facility at the ZBA, there may be an opportunity to take an appeal to the Township Committee or file directly to the Superior Court.

Some Grovers object to the idea for fear that such a facility could promote crime in the town and adverely affect quality of life here.

Still other Grovers are worried about our historic designations, while another group sees more parking and congestion issues at one of the most sensitive locations in town.

Homeowners worry about a precedent that could give rise to a variety of use-variances to cause mini-Sprouts to germinate around town in the numerous multifamily buildings in  the Grove that would be susceptible to conversion to all sorts of enterprises besides condos, such as “community shelters,”  as in Mary’s Place where the owners were able to put together two single family lots to create a ten bedroom spa-like enterprise for cancer patients.

Some are afraid that the Laingdon case will be a pivot point that would begin to change the nature of the town and send it spinning downhill.

So, because there are so many ways to look at this fascinating situation, we decided to do a general opinion poll that presents a general question regarding drug rehab facilities in OG.

And don’t forget that although a large number of Grovers will object to the idea, there is an argument to be made for encouraging such a project.

Once we get a feel for public opinion in general on this topic we can begin to drill down to look at more specific viewpoints from the residents of this very  unique Jersey Shore town where some Grovers now see a threat to its future.

Is the past prologue, or is it the present in this case?  This might be a good time to choose”unsure” in the poll.  As more discussion occurs, some of you might change your minds. We could repeat the poll later.

 

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