Residential healthcare facility draws concern from Manalapan residents

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MANALAPAN – A residential healthcare facility on Route 33 in Manalapan is continuing to cause concern for municipal officials and residents of the nearby Knob Hill neighborhood.

The focus of attention is Manalapan Manor (formerly Marianne Manor), a private residential healthcare facility on Route 33 eastbound near the highway’s intersection with Woodward Road. The facility is licensed and overseen by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

During the past few years, several residents of Manalapan Manor have been struck and killed by vehicles as they walked along Route 33 and/or attempted to cross the state highway. There are stores at or near the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Road.

It has also been reported that residents of the healthcare facility, who are not restricted to the property, panhandle at the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Road, asking for money from motorists who stop at a traffic light at that location.

Manalapan Manor was the subject of Township Committee action and comments from residents of Knob Hill, which is in the vicinity of Manalapan Manor, during the Sept. 11 meeting of the governing body.

An item on the committee’s agenda that evening was the repeal of an ordinance municipal officials adopted a year ago.

On June 20, 2018, the committee adopted an ordinance establishing an Assisted Living Overlay zone (AL-O) in the General Commercial (C-3) zone on Route 33. The zone is where Manalapan Manor is located.

The purpose of the ordinance was to eliminate Manalapan Manor, which has been at the location for many years, and to replace it with a new assisted living facility that would help Manalapan meet its obligation to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing, Township Attorney Roger McLaughlin said on Sept. 11.

“The owner (of Manalapan Manor) had agreed to eliminate the current facility and provide a new facility. Manalapan Manor has been a source of constant problems for our police department and residents,” McLaughlin said.

“We were hopeful the owner would come forward with a new plan, but in the 16 months since (the ordinance was adopted), the owner has not come forward with a new facility.

“Nothing has changed relative to the operation of Manalapan Manor. In fact, it has gotten worse. The committee is acting tonight to repeal the (2018 overlay zone) ordinance,” the attorney said.

On a motion to repeal the 2018 ordinance, Deputy Mayor Jack McNaboe, Committeeman Barry Jacobson and Committeewoman Mary Anne Musich voted “yes.”

Mayor Susan Cohen recused herself from the matter as she does not participate in issues that involve affordable housing. Committeeman Kevin Uniglicht was absent.

Before the committee members voted to repeal the 2018 ordinance, numerous residents of the Knob Hill development spoke during the public hearing.

None of the people who spoke objected to the residents of Manalapan Manor having a place to live. Several expressed sympathy for the people who live there and said they are concerned about the residents’ well-being.

They said they want to make certain the individuals who reside at Manalapan Manor are receiving proper care and living in a clean environment.

Having said that, the people who addressed the committee reported seeing residents of Manalapan Manor panhandling for money near a CVS pharmacy and a Walgreens pharmacy at the corner of Route 33 and Woodward Road.

They said residents of the healthcare facility walk along the highway in the dark, which creates a dangerous situation for pedestrians and motorists.

One resident who said he visited Manalapan Manor called the conditions “deplorable.” He said there appeared to be a lack of staff present to assist people. He said residents of the community at large donated couches and a television to Manalapan Manor to make life more comfortable for the people who live in the healthcare facility.

Another resident said she has children who drive and she told the committee members they are not allowed to drive through the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Road for fear of coming into contact with the residents of Manalapan Manor.

The resident said her children are not permitted to go to CVS or to Walgreens.

An employee of Walgreens said her company is trying to address a situation in which residents of Manalapan Manor come onto the pharmacy’s property and create safety concerns for customers and employees.

McLaughlin said Manalapan Manor continues to be a licensed facility.

“We have been in touch with DCA. We have been raising complaints for several years. What we get in response from the state is that (Manalapan Manor) meets all their regulations,” he said. “Our conclusion is they have nowhere else to put these people.”

“The state feels (Manalapan Manor) is run pretty well. I don’t know how they feel that way. The state doesn’t want to hear (about the problems),” Musich said.

When the Knob Hill residents asked what they could do to have their concerns heard by the state, McLaughlin said, “You can call Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s office. That’s the only way we can put pressure on the licensing agency. Anything people can do in an organized way to make their voices heard, the better it is.”