Ridgewood August 19, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES II • Page 3 Council scraps group home plan after neighbors object by John Koster After hearing from several residents, the Ridgewood Council rejected an ordinance amendment that would have zoned a section of South Broad Street to allow a 10-resident group home for patients with Asperger’s Syndrome. The citizens told the council they believed their neighborhood was being targeted for uses nobody else wanted. “The sentiment is strong and serious about this place,” said Pastor Thomas Johnson of Mount Bethel Baptist Church. “My understanding of the population is that they want to keep this area residential…Our church is over 100 years old, so we’re not newcomers. We’re community people, and we want to keep our community residential.” Michael Tozzoli, chief executive officer of West Bergen Mental Healthcare, which applied to build the group home, said any delay in the council’s vote to make the site viable by a special ordinance – after the board of adjustment rejected the plan – could cost West Bergen about $3 million in federal and state funds. Plans called for the group home to be built at no direct cost to Ridgewood taxpayers. Mayor David Pfund cautioned that refusal to provide affordable housing could provoke legal action by the state’s Council on Affordable Housing. Dianne Simmons Grab, a mental health planner and advocate, said that putting a group home with a live-in caretaker was not in the best interests of the patients or the community. “Our community is over-saturated with people with disabilities,” Grab said. “It’s not true community integration. You’re bringing in one disabled group after another. We moved here because of the diversity. You’re taking that diversity away.” Two group homes already exist in the vicinity. The neighborhood includes residential and commercial uses, some of which have been abandoned. Some residents said they believe the local businesses that have closed have led village officials to target their neighborhood for facilities that would not be acceptable to most other Ridgewood neighborhoods. “It has been the neighborhood that has always been targeted,” said Dan Lewis, another resident. “I think enough is enough. I think we’ve done our fair share. We don’t need to add another site which is larger, which is commercial in nature, and which adds an additional burden to the neighborhood.” Gemma Kim, who lives next to the proposed site, asked if the whole neighborhood might be rezoned soon. “You’re changing the character of our neighborhood,” said Darlene Gidney, also a long-term resident who graduated from Ridgewood High School. “Our community is being changed from a comfortable suburban area to an urban area.” Gidney said most of the people in the neighborhood own their own houses or co-ops and that many older residents were concerned about the impact of housing more patients with diagnosed mental health issues. Gidney also questioned Tozzoli and established that, while the money to build the group home would not come from Ridgewood taxpayers, the home, as a recognized nonprofit unit, would not contribute anything to Ridgewood’s tax base. Janet Strand, a neighbor who has worked in mental health care, challenged Tozzoli’s assertion that patients with Asperger’s Syndrome are calm and interested in living structured, self-disciplined lives. She said that, while Asperger’s patients were usually gentle, Tozzoli’s characterization that they were invariably harmless was untrue. Rosine Paterson asked that the neighborhood be left intact so the residents, many of them born in Ridgewood and most of them long-term neighbors, could live out their senior years in peace. “It seems the neighborhood doesn’t want this,” Ridgewood Council regular Boyd Loving summarized. Loving said the application seemed to have come out of left field, that he had been attending council meetings for years and had not heard about this matter until very recently, and that introducing an ordinance to override the rejection of 13 variances by the Ridgewood Board of Adjustment did not seem to set a good precedent. Neighbors within 200 feet had received notification, but the matter caught most people by surprise. About 40 people turned up at last week’s council meeting, and not one person from the immediate neighborhood spoke in favor of the plan. Stating he had to be “the bad guy” due to the pressure of a possible COAH lawsuit and planning dictated from the outside, Mayor Pfund voted in favor of the ordinance. He was joined by Councilwoman Anne Zusy, who added that she hoped a new location could be found once the funding was approved. Councilman Patrick Mancuso asked for a postponement, but when Tozzoli said a postponement was not possible, Mancuso, Deputy Mayor Keith Killion, and Councilman Paul Aronsohn voted against the zoning change, defeating the ordinance 3-2. Auxiliary opportunities available The Valley Hospital Auxiliary and its local chapters recently announced the following events and activities. Kurth Cottage Gift Shop is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The gift shop carries plush toys and baby items, women’s clothing and accessories, fresh flowers, plants, and more. Volunteers are needed at Kurth Café and at the Gift Shop to help with wait staff, cashiers, and sales. Volunteers can work a two or three hour shift each month or more often as they choose. Volunteers are especially needed during weeknights from 4 to 8 p.m. and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information on volunteering, call the Volunteer Office at (201) 447-8135 or visit www.valleyhealth.com. Personalized Pavers that will be placed in the garden outside the Phillips Wing of the hospital in Ridgewood are now being sold. Births, anniversaries, bar or bat mitzvahs, graduations, special achievements, staff recognition, volunteer service, and other events can be memorialized. Call (201) 447-8064 or the Valley Hospital Volunteer office for the paver order form. A member of this committee will help with the wording that will appear on the paver. Auxiliary members are being sought. Call (201) 4478136 or e-mail webin@valleyhealth.com. All proceeds from auxiliary projects benefit the group’s pledge to fund a 64-slice CT Scanner and to provide funds to expand the inpatient pediatric unit, create a new women’s health unit, and provide support for the Butterflies Pediatric Hospice. HARDING WINE & SPIRIT The shore is nice, but don’t pay the price. Get your Liberty Creek or... Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, White Zinfandel $ HUGE WINE SELECTION Beer • Super Premium Spirits Party Planning • Gift Baskets Free Parking • Ice • Soda WE DELIVER Barefoot Wines $ Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, White Zinfandel & Moscato 5 9 .99 1.5 liter .29 1.5 liter 2 Locations Glen Rock & Passaic PASSAIC LOCATION NOW OPEN SUNDAYS! We Offer Line Of Credits And Financing Plans 305 E. Ridgewood Ave Ridgewood, NJ DEBIT CARDS ACCEPTED 201-445-7122 All that money you’ll save can pay for your picnic on the beach! No rain checks issued. Not responsible for typographical errors. 201.345-5621