Sunday, April 27, 2014

WICKSTROM MARNE EXPANSION HANGS IN THE BALANCE: When Is A "Medical Rehab Clinic" The Same As An "Inpatient Drug Rehabilitation Center"? Per Wickstrom Tries To Have It Both Ways...And He May Get Them! Wright Township Faces May 1 Appeal Deadline.

Per Wickstrom's planned expansion of his tottering drug empire, under the name Best Choice Rehabilitation in Wright Township, Michigan, faces one final legal hurdle.

Wright Township officials are locked in a legal battle with Wickstrom's Narconon-based drug rehabilitation treatment juggernaut, one that wants to build a drug treatment center in a former Marne nursing home.

In a battle that's reminiscent of a famous "Chinatown" scene, Wickstrom's "my medical clinic/my drug rehab facility" legal battle may be headed for a showdown in Michigan's Court of Appeals.

Last fall the Wright Township Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals turned down a request by Best Drug Holdings, of Nevada, for a special-use permit to turn the former Creek View Lodge retirement home, 15140 16th Ave., into an in-patient drug treatment center.

The township and Best Drug are locked in a legal battle that will ultimately decide the fate of the proposed facility. 

"This is a battle over what the owner of the property can do by right and for what intended uses they must get a special-use permit for,"  Wright Township Attorney Crystal Morgan told MLive in early April.

Best Drug Holdings bought the former retirement and nursing home with the intent of building an in-patient drug treatment center on the site, according to Per Wickstrom's favorite attorney, Phillip Slot. 

Slot, who in real life plays Keanu Reeves to Wickstrom's Al Pacino, is representing Best Drug and said when his client bought the property, the township's zoning administrator told them they could build a "medical center" on the property without getting a special-use permit. 

Wickstrom’s claim disputes an interpretation made in May by the Wright Township Zoning Administrator, who determined that the intended use was subject to special land use approval and referred the request to the Planning Commission.

Township officials say what Best Drug wants to build is not a medical center for patients to see doctors during regular business hours, but a residential treatment center, which is not allowed in that zoning district by right. Township Supervisor Joshua Westgate said the previous owners had gotten a special-use permit to open the former nursing home but that special-use permit expired when the nursing home ceased operations.

The Planning Commission turned down Best Drug's request for a special-use permit, saying the proposed facility didn't fit in the residential area.  Best Drug appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals. "The question is whether or not the previous use of the facility was the same as the proposed use," Morgan said. "The answer the ZBA reached was 'no' as Best Drug claimed they were building a medical clinic which is allowed under the current zoning. But a medical clinic is different than a residential treatment facility, which isn't."

Best Drug ultimately filed suit in 20th Circuit Court in Grand Haven and Judge Jon Van Allsburg vacated the Planning Commission and ZBA decisions in March. Van Allsburg's decision was that the drug treatment center was a permitted use in the zone and Wright Township had to let Best Drug move ahead with its plans. Wright Township filed an appeal late last month asking Van Allsburg to reconsider the case. On April 10, Van Allsburg denied the motion to reconsider.

The township now has until May 1 to decide if they want to appeal the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals. "We are looking at all of our options at this point in time," said Westgate.

Best Drug has filed suit in the 20th Circuit Court seeking damages of $25,000 or more from the township for the delays the township has caused in building the facility. "We are paying people to clean up the site and have other ongoing costs that we had hoped to pay for once the facility opened this spring," Slot said. "All we are trying to do is recover those costs." The suit claims the township is unlawfully taking private property. A trial date has not been scheduled for that suit.

 Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown

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