By PETE WALTON
A controversial rehabilitation facility has been evicted from the Bradley Beach oceanfront.
The owner of 811 Ocean Ave. is seeking to sell the building, Mayor Gary Engelstad announced at this week’s Borough Council meeting.
“The tenant has been evicted, they’ve moved out, and with the actions we’ve taken, something like this will not happen again,” the mayor said.
Engelstad thanked neighbors of the former Tranquil and Quest operation for bringing to the council’s attention the quality of life problems caused by the facility.
The mayor praised municipal attorney Michael R. DuPont for his work on behalf of the borough as it dealt with the situation. DuPont was unable to attend this week’s meeting.
Bradley Beach had been engaged in a legal battle with the landlord and the rehab operators since they first announced plans to lease the beachfront condominiums as housing for clients who were transported elsewhere for substance abuse treatment.
Tranquil and Quest leased the four condominium units from Simone Realty Inc. Engelstad was a member of the borough Planning Board which approved owner John Simone’s application to build the condos as residential units.
The townhomes went unsold for a considerable period of time before Simone took what the mayor called “a shocking step of leasing the property to a provider of rehab services.”
“The concept that beachfront property could be used for this type of purpose was incredibly foreign to us,” Engelstad said previously. “The town had a history of issues emanating from pre-existing halfway or Oxford-style homes and we were determined to fight allowing another one.”
When the borough tried to deny a license for the rehab operation, Simone sued the town under the Fair Housing Act.
In January 2015, state Superior Court Judge Katie A. Gummer decided that the use was permitted under borough ordinances and ordered Bradley Beach to grant a group rental license and a use permit. Engelstad said the prospect of millions of taxpayer dollars in legal fees for a fight the borough was likely to lose prompted the council not to appeal the decision.
Gummer appointed retired Ocean County Assignment Judge Eugene Serpentelli to mediate the dispute between the borough and Simone, and retained jurisdiction over the matter. The rehab operators agreed to certain conditions, which the borough continued to monitor.
Tranquil and Quest claimed to offer “the first beachfront sober living option in New Jersey,” with “luxurious and modern recovery services for those struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol.”
“These four oceanfront condos combine high-end accommodations and modern healing and wellness programs to create an atmosphere of support, relaxation and recovery,” according to a description on the rehab’s web site.
In July of 2016, residents jammed the council chamber to detail ongoing problems with the facility. Engelstad said at the time that homeowners, especially in a beachfront setting, expect that they will have “like-minded neighbors, neighbors who are similarly invested and dedicated to your block and town.”
“You do not expect drug and alcohol recovery patients who are changing on a regular basis, you do not expect cigarette litter on the sidewalk, you do not expect passenger vans blocking your sidewalk and you do not expect private security guards standing outside a residential property,” Engelstad said at the 2016 meeting, which he described this week as the low point of his tenure as mayor.
DuPont relayed the comments from neighbors to Serpentelli and Tranquil and Quest officials, but the complaints continued.
In June of last year, DuPont reported that the rehab operators intended to move their facility out of Bradley Beach. DuPont said Tranquil and Quest told Serpentelli that the Ocean Avenue townhouses had been operating at 50 percent capacity. The attorney said discussions between the parties were continuing and that he anticipated a resolution.
As this week’s council meeting wound down, a borough employee handed Engelstad a piece of paper informing him that the eviction of the rehab could be made public.
The audience applauded after the mayor made the announcement.