West Chester reaches deal on drug rehab clinic

The Pisgah Youth Baseball league fields sit across Cincinnati Columbus Road from a proposed drug rehab center in West Chester. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
The Pisgah Youth Baseball league fields sit across Cincinnati Columbus Road from a proposed drug rehab center in West Chester. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Mason doctor says he’ll be a good neighbor, despite months-long fight.

Neither side is happy, but a Mason doctor and West Chester Twp. trustees reached a compromise agreement that will allow a controversial drug rehabilitation clinic to open, ending a federal lawsuit.

Dr. Mohamed Aziz said he isn’t thrilled with some of the conditions he agreed to, but he plans to comply and be a good neighbor.

The drug rehab center now is able to open on Ohio 42 across from the Pisgah Youth Organization ball fields, next to the Hickory Dickory Tots daycare and in front of a residential neighborhood. Opponents had actively sought to prevent the clinic from opening.

West Chester Twp. Trustee Board President Mark Welch said he “begrudgingly” signed the agreement Tuesday night because he believes they were able to address concerns dozens of residents had.

“Things like there are no court-ordered patients that are there, you have to go there voluntarily,” Welch said. “The whole idea of voluntarily means these people want to be there, they are not flight risks, criminal risks or anything like that.”

The township has secured other conditions with safety implications that involve the clientele, their access to the building and security measures.

As part of the deal, the clinic will have secured in-patient wings, for example.

Some of the provisions include a ban on treating child victim offenders or any criminal case drug treatment sentences. Methadone treatment would be prohibited, and the in-patient area will be secured from the rest of the facility.

Aziz would not elaborate on which conditions he opposed, but said he knows he needed to give on some things to reach a middle ground with the township.

“There are a few of the conditions we were not very excited about, but they are something we can live with and comply with,” Aziz said. “We do understand the need from the other end with the trustees and the township administration to appease the public concern and also alleviate their anxiety and worries.”

Lawyers for the township told a federal judge in early December that they had a settlement with Aziz, but the two sides continued to haggle over final terms until Tuesday.

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 Dec. 7, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Aziz said he will get started on the process of getting zoning approvals and begin work remodeling the old nursing home. He said any number of contingencies could impact his timeline, but he hopes he will be open for business this year. He said he believes his neighbors will be pleased with the transformation he has planned for the dilapidated property.

“Obviously we are going to make sure that the exterior looks very comfortable and a nice place to look at, as much as we can,” he said. “But we also have to remodel the inside.”

According to the lawsuit, Aziz has spent about $850,000 on the project so far.

Trustee Lee Wong early on wanted to dissolve the moratorium because he feared a lawsuit. He said he is pleased with the outcome.

“We got about 60 percent of what we wanted, so it was very good,” he said.

Trustee George Lang also said he “begrudgingly” signed the papers but a clause in the settlement prevents him from saying what he really feels about the entire matter.

“I wasn’t very pleased with the outcome,” he said.

Since Aziz’s project came to light last April — when a moratorium went into place and the township began investigating the impact of such facilities on the community — the township has spent $56,482 with almost $30,000 directly related to the lawsuit. Officials said all of the legal bills are not in yet, but some of the money will be paid by their insurance carrier.

The township does not have to pay any of Aziz’s costs as might have been the case if they continued the case and ultimately lost.

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