A petition signed by over 1,000 Manchester residents was presented to Mayor Michael Fressola earlier this week expressing concerns over the controversial variance and site plan application for a .
The petitioners, in a letter dated on Oct. 10 and received by the mayor's office on Oct. 11, state that Fressola "has not reached out to residents who will be impacted by the proposed nursing home."
"It is particularly disheartening that you have taken the words of the applicant at face value even after it has been shown that the applicant was untruthful about the certificate of need," the letter states.
In an open letter to the 1,036 petitioners dated Oct. 12, Fressola addresses the certificate of need question and other issues raised by the signatories.
"I have not spoken to the applicant," Fressola writes. "I was told by an attorney that they had a certificate of need."
Note — both letters, in their entirety, are available as PDF documents in this article's media box.
The proposed $25 million, 180-bed Manchester Rehab Realty facility would be built in a residential zone at 3086 Ridgeway Rd. and thus requires a land use variance from Manchester's zoning board of adjustment. The application was and a groundswell of opposition has grown since, requiring public meetings to be held in township schools rather than the municipal courtroom to accommodate the hundreds of spectators.
The petitioners write that Fressola has a friendship with the applicant's attorney, Harvey York, and that the mayor has "helped the applicant further his application at the Zoning Board without considering all of the relevant facts."
Fressola responds that, while he has know the attorney professionally for over 20 years and has "always found him to be honest and forthright," he has "no friendship" with York and does not interfere with any decisions by Manchester's boards.
"I have always provided them with any verified information I had about an applicant — no more, no less," Fressola writes.
The petitioners argue that other Ocean County facilities run by the applicant have received low star ratings from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and allege that grounds are unkempt.
They also state that two facilities have federal tax liens against them and add that a former business partner has accused "one of the principals" of Ocean Healthcare Management of engaging in "embezzlement, fraud and other defalcations."
"Are these the type of of individuals and businesses the township really wants to attract to the detriment of thousands of residents?" the letter states.
The petitioners state that, if the facility should be built in Manchester, it should be done in an area zoned for such a business, not in a residential district.
"This way, the township can have its $25 million ratable and the promised 300 new jobs while maintaining the integrity of the master zoning plan," they write.
Fressola counters that this statement is "very strange in view of your opinions of the applicant."
"If this applicant is so bad, why do you think it would be OK to build it somewhere else in town? Do the other residents in town not count?" he asks.
The mayor closes his letter by stating that he declare his position on the facility once "all the facts are known and vetted."
"I am, after all, the mayor of all the residents of Manchester ... You have every right to protest against this proposal. All I ask is that you wait until all the facts are known," Fressola states.
In September, made by those opposed to the facility that the applicant re-submit plans after alterations to the original design were made. That hearing was then adjourned so that the plan on file with the township could be updated.
Though originally to be held at , the board will next continue to hear the matter at on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m.