A drug rehabilitation facility will be permitted to open in West Chester Twp. as long as several conditions involving its clients and security are met.
Dr. Mohamed Aziz sued the township in September claiming they were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by enacting a moratorium on facilities like his. He claimed his addicted clients are disabled and withholding approval of a facility that could help them is against federal law.
On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, and details of a settlement were released by the township on Thursday.
Secured in-patient wings and no criminal or non-voluntary clients are among details of the settlement between West Chester Twp. trustees and Aziz, according to documents obtained by the Journal-News.
Some of the biggest concerns neighbors voiced over eight months of meetings were the types of clients Aziz would be serving at his new facility on Ohio 42 and whether drug addicted people and visitors would have free reign of the clinic.
Aziz will be permitted to open his facility but the township secured several conditions that involve the clientele, their access to the building and security measures.
Some of the provisions include: no child victim offenders can be treated there; it cannot be used for any criminal case drug treatment sentences; Methadone treatment is prohibited; and the in-patient area will be secured from the rest of the facility.
Chris Finney, Aziz’s attorney, said the parties could not discuss the case until the trustees approve the final consent decree on Dec. 20.
Trustee George Lang said the only comment he could make is that “it’s been a very frustrating process.”
Residents and members of the Pisgah Youth Organization — which sits directly across the street from the proposed facility on U.S. 42 — came to every trustee meeting beseeching the officials to stop the doctor’s plans.
Gene Drozd, treasurer of the PYO, was at every meeting, usually clutching a petition with hundreds of signatures on it.
“We again are in a position where a bunch of folks are totally against the location. We understand the need of the community, we understand the doctor probably does very good work, but we are just totally opposed to that location,” Drozd told the trustees in August.
In an unusual move, Judge Timothy S. Black of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio placed a notation on the docket that told the township it needed to work out a resolution with Aziz.
Black wrote in part: “The court has advised defendant that it would be wise to work with plaintiffs to find a potential resolution to this matter outside of the litigation process.”
Trustee Board President Mark Welch told the Journal-News previously he hoped the settlement process would bring about changes to the doctor’s plans that would appease the neighbors.
Under the township’s newly approved rules, establishments like drug rehabs aren’t allowed in residential neighborhoods.
According to the lawsuit, Aziz has spent about $850,000 on the project so far, which includes transforming a former nursing home into the addiction rehab center.
Legal experts have told this newspaper Black was likely, in part, urging settlement to avoid a huge legal bill for taxpayers. The township has spent more than $400,000 to defend and settle lawsuits over the past few years, and some of that money came from taxpayers’ pockets. Township Administrator Judi Boyko told this newspaper previously their insurance company caps the amount attorneys can be paid. In some of the lawsuits they have felt they needed the expertise of their law director — as they are in the Aziz case — so they have picked up the extra legal fees the insurance company won’t cover.
When Black closed out the docket on the case Wednesday he noted the court still has jurisdiction over the case.
“It is ordered that this action is hereby dismissed with prejudice, provided that any of the parties may, upon good cause shown within 60 days, move to reopen the action if settlement is not consummated…, Black wrote. “The court expressly and explicitly retains jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement of the parties.”
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