Editor's Note: The original version of this article contained a factual error on the process ReVIDA must take after the council finalizes changes to the law. The Tribune regrets the error.
The Morristown City Council has given its unanimous approval to proposed changes to zoning regulations that impact substance-abuse treatment facilities – significantly including distance requirements between the businesses and places like churches, schools and residential property – and final approval is expected at council’s next meeting on Dec. 3.
The changes aren’t being undertaken in a vacuum.
The issue surfaced white-hot when the Morristown Board of Zoning Appeals denied ReVIDA Recovery Center a use-on-review at its current location on Bowman Drive, just west of Hyde EyeCare on West Morris Boulevard. The stated reason was that the clinical is within 1,000 feet of a church.
ReVIDA maintained from the outset that recovering drug addicts are a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and municipalities that establish distance requirements are in clear violation of settled federal law. It didn’t take long for city officials to realize ReVIDA was right, and they tasked planning and legal staff to revise zoning regulations.
The proposed changes eliminate distance requirements and provide that substance-abuse facilities can locate in any area of the city in which other medical offices can locate.
The proposed ordinance distinguishes between Suboxone-prescribing clinics like ReVIDA, which do not dispense or store drugs on site and frequently counsel recovering addicts, and methadone clinics, which traditionally both dispense and store drugs.
Methadone clinic require a certificate of need. Suboxone clinics do not.
Once the ordinance is revised by council, ReVida can reapply for the use-on-review to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The decision of the BZA is final, and is not ratified by city council.