Doctor sues West Chester Twp. over drug rehab facility

The doctor who wanted to turn a former nursing home into a drug rehabilitation center has sued West Chester Twp. in federal court.

Dr. Mohamed Aziz filed the lawsuit Friday, alleging that a temporary ban trustees placed on facilities like his Professional Psychiatric Services violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“PPS’s future patients are considered people with disabilities under the ADA and the Rehab Act and are therefore a protected class,” the lawsuit reads. “Under the ADA and the Act, laws that apply only to individuals with disabilities are facially discriminatory.”

The lawsuit indicates PPS paid $650,000 for the old nursing home and an additional $200,000 for an adjacent property so they can properly address a “storm water retaining bowl” issue.

Trustee board President Mark Welch said they normally don’t discuss pending litigation but the township does intend to fight the lawsuit.

“We are really compelled to fight it because this is a suit that’s being brought against us,” Welch said. “On behalf of the residents and business owners of West Chester, acting on their behalf, I think that it would be foolish and ill advised to cave in, just because somebody brought suit.”

Liberty Twp. recently settled a lawsuit filed against it over their soliciting curfews, but their attorney advised them they would definitely have lost the case because the door knockers are constitutionally protected.

The trustees placed a moratorium on all new zoning certificates and approvals for drug treatment and rehab facilities while they studied the effects on the rest of the community on April 12. The proposed facility sits directly across the street from the Pisguh Youth Organization ball fields, next door to the Hickory Dickory Tots daycare and in front of a residential neighborhood.

The trustees recently started a zoning change process that would force officials to consider the effects on neighboring properties and include other restrictions on proposed treatment centers.

Aziz previously told this news outlet that if he was blocked from building the new, 35,740-square-foot, in-patient and out-patient facility, he would have no choice but to seek legal action against the township.

“Unfortunately our back is to the wall. That’s not a threat or anything; it’s just process thinking,” he previously said. “If we cannot get their support then we have to seek it somewhere else. And that’s going to be a significant misuse of the taxpayers’ money.”

For five months trustees have heard dozens of people speak out about how locating a drug rehab in the former nursing home on Ohio 42 would be harmful. They concede drug addicts need the help Aziz can provide, but said they find the location troubling.

Karen Werling, owner of the daycare center north of the nursing home, said 3,000 Lakota school students are in the immediate area, and many of them walk to and from school and would be exposed to drug addicts at the proposed facility.

Werling said rehab centers are necessary, “… just not in the middle of our community where we are serving so many young children,” she said. “Birds of a feather can sometimes flock together, so not only do you have the inpatient people, but you have all the people coming in to visit with those people.”

Gene Drozd, treasurer of the PYO, said he had no comment on whether the township should fight the lawsuit, but he hopes the trustees won’t forget what this fight has been about.

“I’d like to see the township do whatever they can do to help us achieve what we need to achieve,” Drozd said.

The lawsuit is asking the judge to award “damages for lost or delayed profits, lost opportunity, frustration of mission, diminution of market share and any other damages” plus costs and attorneys’ fees.

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