Pleasantville Planning Board: No methadone clinic at the Pleasantville Shopping Center

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Responding to the fears of residents over the safety of their families, the city Planning Board rejected an application to move a methadone clinic to its largest shopping center./R.J. Liberatore Jr. Responding to the fears of residents over the safety of their families, the city Planning Board rejected an application to move a methadone clinic to its largest shopping center./R.J. Liberatore Jr. PLEASANTVILLE –Responding to residents’ fears over the safety of their families, the Planning Board rejected an application from a company looking to open a methadone clinic in the city’s largest shopping center.

“I am a husband, a father, a simple man who works in Pleasantville,” said Reginald Skinner, who lives on nearby Noah’s Road. “I want to know who will protect my wife. What happens when my mother goes to shop?”

Pleasantville Planning Board members repeated the concerns of scores of outspoken residents on Tuesday, March 4 when they voted 9-0 to reject a change of use request by lawyers representing Apple Farms LLC.

If approved, the request would have allowed the John Brooks Recovery Center, which operates in Atlantic City, to open a methadone clinic and administrative offices in the Pleasantville Shopping Center, a 200,000-square-foot shopping facility on the Black Horse Pike.

“It’s a safety issue,” board member Ladonia Richardson said. “We do not need any disrespect in Pleasantville any more. This is not the place to put it.”

If the application had been approved, hundreds of recovering heroin addicts would have accessed the 50-year-old shopping center for daily treatments that begin as early as 6 a.m., according to Alan Oberman, the company’s chief executive officer.

Oberman said he has been in a search to create a mainland center for recovering addicts since 2007. He said the Pleasantville Shopping Center provided a good location on the Black Horse Pike because it was close to public transportation and provided ample parking.

John Brooks Recovery Center would have used the 20,000-square-foot portion of the Shopping Center that once housed PleasanTech Charter School.

But scores of residents felt otherwise and packed the Pleasantville municipal courtroom where Planning Board meetings are held to voice their opinions.

They said the clientele that would use the recovery center would present a dangerous element to an area where children, wives and mothers shop.

“This is an ill fit for this community,” resident Marvin Royal said to the Planning Board. “And if you don’t do something now, you may not have the chance to do anything later.”

Royal went on to say, “There is a fundamental issue here. We are talking about our quality of life.”

Pleasantville school board member Jerome Page urged Planning Board members to “really look at the situation. You can make it right.”

Many residents said they were upset and felt disrespected because John Brooks Recovery Center officials signed a lease with the Pleasantville Shopping Center even before they had applied to the Planning Board.

Apple Farms lawyer Nicholas F. Talvacchia argued that medical offices are an accepted use in Pleasantville’s residential-commercial zone and should be allowed at the shopping center.

But Planning Board professional planner John Hess said even though medical offices are allowed in the zone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a methadone clinic should be allowed in a shopping center inside that zone.

The Planning Board and members of the public agreed.

“I am all for the program,” Tilton Road resident Ramona King said. “But I am not for where you want the program.”

She cited safety concerns.

“I need to know that some little kid isn’t going to come by and pick up something and then end up sick for the rest of their lives," she said. "I’m gonna watch you.”

Other residents wondered why Oberman hadn’t considered moving the clinic to the nearly vacant and Cardiff Shopping Center in Egg Harbor Township where Pathmark used to be. They wondered why Johns Brooks didn't consider moving to the vacant buildings in the back of the Hamilton Mall in Hamilton Township.

Oberman said he felt the Pleasantville Shopping Center was the best fit.

“I will have to talk with my client,” Talvacchia said.






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