Plans for Substance Abuse Disorder Hospital in Cortlandt Blocked

A plea to allow a planned specialty hospital to treat individuals suffering from substance use disorder to move forward in Cortlandt fell on deaf ears last week.

For the second time, the Cortlandt Town Board unanimously approved a moratorium on certain uses in the town’s Zoning Ordinance until June 30. The board took the same action in December but had to vote again because of some procedural deficiencies.

The enactment of the moratorium specifically temporarily blocks the application of Hudson Ridge Wellness Center on a 20-acre site on Quaker Ridge Road, which was first presented to town staff in September 2014 and formally submitted to the Planning Board in July 2015 for a special permit.

Robert Davis, an attorney for Hudson Ridge Wellness Center, requested the board grant a variance to his clients from the moratorium, noting taxes on the property would increase from $56,000 to more than $500,000 annually if, and when, the project gets approved.

“This is a very well-thought-out proposal,” Davis said. “It will benefit the town as a whole. There’s never been any attempt on our part to hide what we want to do.”

The “high-end” hospital will be modeled after the well-known Betty Ford Clinic in California and other facilities in Connecticut and along the Eastern Seaboard. It will be a private pay hospital with no clients with any serious psychiatric history, violent or criminal backgrounds or who are government assisted. All patients will also be required to have undergone detox elsewhere before being accepted.

Davis contended the moratorium was enacted two months ago to “meet the needs of a certain neighborhood group, instead of 40,000 residents and my client.”

“The applicant’s voluminous submissions to the Planning Board and this board, preemptively addressing each and every potential issue and impacts of its proposal, which once again demonstrates its efforts to be a good neighbor, amply debunk the fear mongering which precipitated the moratorium,” Davis stated in a January 28 letter to the Town Board.

“The maxim that ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ certainly applies to this scenario, not only with respect to our client’s effort to involve the town at the earliest opportunity, but in its securing and monumental clean-up and improvement of a property which had become a dangerous neighborhood blight, and nuisance, and in its proposing a use of its property which is demonstrably devoid of significant adverse impacts, while addressing the widely acknowledged public crisis of substance use disorder,” Davis stated.

Town Attorney Thomas Wood explained the moratorium on certain uses in town stemmed from a review of a Sustainable Comprehensive Plan for Cortlandt over the last three years that will be a subject of a public hearing on March 15.

Wood also said the revote of the board last week “knocks out” about 15 procedural claims made by Hudson Ridge in a pending Article 78 challenge against Cortlandt. Hudson Ridge has also filed a federal lawsuit against the town, accusing Cortlandt of discriminating against individuals with substance abuse problems.

Hudson Ridge has argued its use is consistent with the historical use of the property, which from the 1920s to the 1950s was developed and utilized by the Lamb Foundation for a similar hospital. IBM was located on the site in the 1950s and the Hudson Institute was there from the 1960s to the 1980s. A special permit was issued for a hospital in 1989 from another entity, but those plans never materialized. Hudson Ridge purchased the property in 2010.

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