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Following exposure on the issue on FAA News, Lakewood Township officials have cut back on the scope of freebie that they were planning to quietly give to CHEMED.

The issue involves a road off Chestnut Street which they were quietly "planning to arrange."

CHEMED Health Center recently announced the opening of their new southern facility at 1171 River Avenue.

The new site will initially offer only a pediatric department, a walk-in department, for immediate care and a behavioral health department, however they plan to expand their offerings in the future with the ultimate goal to provide comprehensive medical care to patients in the South Side of Lakewood.

At one parking space per 150 square feet of gross floor area, Lakewood Township's off-street parking space requirement for medical and dental office space is greater than most other uses permitted in Lakewood's various zoning districts.

Under this ordinance, a medical or dental office building with 24,850 sq feet of gross floor area would require 166 off-street parking spaces.

Per the architectural plans they presented to the Planning Board on June 23, 2020, CHEMED's new building contains 24,850 sq feet of gross floor area including a pharmacy, 30 examination rooms for Adult Medicine, Pediatrics, Women’s Health and Dental Care, and 3 waiting rooms with 27 seats each on the main floor, and a partially-completed basement with 10 offices and a conference room.

However, CHEMED's Site Plan only provided a grand 53 parking spaces. This was deemed conforming thanks a special carve out that the Township Committee did for CHEMED. Read more about that in full here on FAA News.

Aside from this very special carve out, the Township Committee was planning to real quietly hook up CHEMED with yet another huge favor.

CHEMED's Site Plan only included a right in / right out driveway on Route 9.

At their Planning Board public hearing, Board Engineer Terry Vogt noted that they were required to pave Pineview Avenue as an additional access from Chestnut Street. 

In response, Engineer Brian Flannery requested that the Board grant a design waiver from improving Pineview Avenue including roadway dedication, curbing, sidewalk, and street trees and shade tree easement.

Mr. Flannery specifically testified that "We are not expecting Pineview to ever be improved. Pineview should never be developed because it would be a detriment. Improving Pineview out to Chestnut Street would be a nightmare."

Despite testifying to the Planning Board, under oath, that paving Pineview "would be a detriment" and a "nightmare," CHEMED was actually quietly planning to pave this road.

The plans for this new road were supposed to be approved now directly by the Township Committee instead of by the Planning Board.

Huh? The task of reviewing site plans is given to the Planning Board. Why would the Township Committee need to be involved?

Moreover, if CHEMED was planning to pave Pineview Avenue, why did they need to go to all the trouble to falsely testify to the Planning Board that they were not going to pave the roadway, so much so that they needed to testify to the Planning Board that paving Pineview "would be a detriment" and a "nightmare?"

The answer lies in the "minor fact" that the plans presented to the Township Committee include designating the public right of way as an "emergency access drive aisle," with appropriate signage that this driveway improvement is solely for emergency access to CHEMED.

By posting this special signage, and with Township Committee approval, the road does not become dedicated to the public, thus allowing CHEMED to get away with paving a narrow road with no curb, sidewalk, street lighting, and utilities.

This is why they needed to testify to the Planning Board that paving Pineview "would be a detriment" and a "nightmare" - because without a design waiver from the Planning Board, it would have cost them more money to pave the road in accordance with proper public roadway standards.

Additionally, presenting plans to the Planning Board means notifying the nearby property owners with notice of the application - apparently something which CHEMED was desperately attempting to avoid.

However, this all came crumbling once this special deal was exposed here on FAA News.

Following this exposure, last month the Township Committee halted this plan.

At their recent meeting on Thursday, the Committee approved a scaled back plan which permits CHEMED to build a driveway around the back of their building. This driveway will be built over the Pineview Avenue right of way. However, the original plan to pave this road out to Chestnut Street is off the table for now.

Old plan is below:

It is unclear from the their conceptual design plan if this driveway will include a means of turning around.

If it does, then the good news is that this driveway may also be used for a delivery unloading area, which their Site Plan did not provide.

Additionally, at their public hearing, CHEMED testified to the Planning Board that they are aware of parking constraints in Lakewood and they therefore plan on implementing a parking study every 6 months during the use of this site, and, should the need for more parking arise, they are prepared to implement certain strategies, including possibly shuttle services.

With no loading area it would be difficult to fit a shuttle bus through this site. If this new driveway does include a sufficient turnaround, it may actually be possible to implement shuttle services.

CHEMED does not own this lot. The lot is owned by Lakewood Township. In November 2016, the township leased this lot to LRRC/ Chemed for 50 years for nominal consideration of $1 per year.

In 2018 the LRRC was awarded a $1 million federal grant through the HRSA HIP grant to build and open this additional site. Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health and Monmouth Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus are also partners in bringing the CHEMED South Site to fruition.

Construction on the southern campus began in October 2021, following completion of a prerequisite environmental cleanup. A formal groundbreaking ceremony was held in November 2021. The guest of honor was Congressman Christopher Smith who was very helpful in obtaining the $1 million federal grant for the construction. Mayor Ray Coles, Senator Bob Singer, as well as the heads of Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health and Monmouth Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, were called out and lauded for their support of this project.

Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller who is employed by CHEMED abstained from voting on this roadway deal.

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