The application for a controversial skilled nursing facility on Route 571 near the Renaissance retirement community has been withdrawn, Manchester Mayor Michael Fressola announced Friday afternoon.
“I have had discussions with the applicant and expressed my concerns about the viability of the project," he said in a prepared statement. "I want to make it clear that I have not interfered with the legal process or the duties and responsibilities of the township Zoning Board of Adjustment."
The application, which requires a use variance, was introduced by Manchester Rehab Realty nearly a year ago and has been met with resistance from those who live nearby.
Harvey York, the applicant's attorney, said that he sent a letter to the township zoning board on Thursday to inform them of his client's decision. The economic viability of the project was the main concern in proceeding, though he said that resistance from neighbors "had an impact."
"My client took all the factors into account and decided not to proceed," he said. "My client has had enough and that's the end of it."
Fressola said that it is "disappointing to lose a potential tax ratable" in town — the applicant valued the facility at $25 million, though a certificate of need placed that number at $18 million — but he took into account that residents were concerned by the operation's potential impact.
"Several constituents have expressed concern to me about traffic control and other issues regarding the nursing home and I delivered those concerns to the applicant’s attorney, Mr. York," he said.
Richard Lareau, a resident who lives on Shorin Way — a property adjacent to the proposed facility — said that he was returning from travel when he learned of the withdrawal. He immediately began sending text messages to tell his neighbors the news.
"We're very happy. It's been a long 10 months for us," he said. "We as residents want to keep this a residential area and we're proud of the professional fight we put up to stop this for-profit business from coming into the neighborhood."
Fighting this application since its introduction last June has made Lareau and his neighbors more aware of what goes on in town.
"Many towns do variances and just vote them in," he said. "We're very concerned with that kind of activity. We'll attend more meetings and see what's going on."
Lisa John, attorney for the Manchester Neighbors group opposed to the facility, is on vacation and was unavailable for comment. Lareau said that the group will not disband now that the application has been scuttled and can serve as a sort of watchdog organization in town.
The application ultimately would have been granted, York believed and told the mayor, but economics and the potential of being seen as "a bad neighbor" played a part in withdrawing, Fressola said.
"Mr. York believes that there is a need for more nursing facilities in Ocean County as the largest concentration of seniors in the state is aging, and that his client will have ample opportunities to operate their facility elsewhere," Fressola said.
The mayor said that "my administration and I take pride in our open door policy" and he heard concerns from residents, including those from Renaissance. This decision, he said, "is in the best interests" of the township and the applicant.