Mountainside gets nod to expand facility on Route 7
NORTH CANAAN — The Mountainside addiction treatment facility on South Canaan Road (Route 7) was granted a special permit last week for an expansion.Planned is construction of a 16-bed residential building, and additional drainage and parking to accommodate the addition. The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) voted unanimously Nov. 14 without discussion on a permit motion, with conditions written by Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO) Ruth Mulcahy.During a public hearing prior to last week’s decision, Mountainside CEO Terry Dougherty said they had purchased adjoining property, as planned, from Peter and Karen Richard. It includes a house and 6.5 acres. Public concern was raised for drainage from the site. Behind the facility, Canaan Mountain forms a cliff. A large, paved parking lot is proposed and will add significant impervious surface.This was a second attempt at design and approval for the project. Issues have been with technicalities in applying for the permit, rather than a need to alter the design. In the end, a difficult set of procedures and timing considerations drove the plan.The application process that began during the summer took some dramatic turns as both the applicant and P&Z struggled with an unprecedented scenario and with existing issues of zoning noncompliance. The first application, presented last summer, did not include the required site plan. Dougherty and attorney Tony Nania appealed to P&Z to approve the application within the narrow timeframe prescribed by a deal to buy the adjoining property and secure financing. They also asked to be allowed to wait on paying for an expensive site plan design until the permit was approved.Mountainside later attempted to submit a site plan. But that was after the public hearing was closed in August, precluding the addition of new information.While P&Z members said they were supportive of the plan and sympathetic to the time crunch, they deferred to Mulcahy’s insistence that they not approve an application that was incomplete. On Nov. 8, it was voted down four to one with member Norman Tatsapaugh objecting to not having had a chance to review the motion, or understanding that his objection should have been raised during a call for discussion on the motion, not after the vote.Prior to all of that, the way had been paved for the expansion with a zoning amendment that better defined addiction treatment centers, as requested by the mortgage holder, and where such facilities could be sited, as prompted by a commission discussion. P&Z also approved an amendment to require public sewer and a minimum of 25 acres for such a facility built in a residential/agricultural zone. Complicating the matter was that Mountainside’s plan dictated the two properties remain legally separate. P&Z said it would allow the new 6.5 acres to be considered for zoning purposes as part of the existing 30.81 acres.All of that can be chalked up to a learning curve, as the new application shows the addition to be built off the northeast corner and connected to the existing facility. Drainage will be extensive for the entire facility and a large parking area will be established along the north side of the property. The two lots will be legally combined as a condition of the special permit. Mulcahy explained she added the condition to bring the existing facility into zoning compliance. “A nonconforming use cannot expand,” she said. “Combining the properties gives them the minimum 25 acres. It brings it all out of nonconformity, so special permitting won’t be as big an issue in the future.”Other conditions include use of full cut-off exterior lighting, parking spaces that meet minimum size requirements, the submission of a sedimentation and erosion control plan for construction and a storm water quality control plan. Mulcahy said she is confident the engineer on the project knows what is required for drainage control and reporting, but plans to closely scrutinize that aspect as the project moves forward.