|Posted by Ben Garrison on July 29, 2011 at 1:06 PM|
By Judy Wilson
Deerfield Beach – For 10 years, Sherief Abu-Moustafa has kept a low profile, building his campus for recovering addicts one building at a time. But those days of anonymity in the community may be over.
Abu-Moustafa is seeking to add a detox facility to his holdings and the prospect has some residents up in arms. Several hundred people attended a Planning and Zoning Board meeting earlier this month to protest his application for a site plan at 504 S. Federal Highway where he wants to open a 28-bed detoxification facility.
Few people had anything good to say about his plan to expand the services of The Florida House and the board voted 4-0 to deny the application. Abu-Moustafa plans to bring the site plan to the city commission on August 16.
This week he said he is very disturbed that his opponents are “putting fear into people and decisions are being made on fear, not facts.”According to Abu-Moustafa, the facts are that he operates a fully certified and licensed, private facility for people coming off addictions. He does not accept court-ordered clients nor those institutionalized under the Baker Act. He does not accept sexual predators. Cost of care at The Florida House runs $15,000 a month and clients stay for periods of 30 days to a year.
He runs a special program for professional people: doctors, lawyers, pilots. “These people are not monsters. They are your son, or daughter,” Abu-Moustafa said.
The Florida House already offers detox treatment using other facilities in the area. After the three-day detox, the clients come to Florida House to complete their rehab.
Before he paid Carlos Sanchez, owner of the cigar store and smoking club $1.3 million for his property, Abu-Moustafa checked with the Planning and Zoning Department to insure he met all regulations for expanding his campus. He was told a substance abuse treatment center is a permitted use of the B-2 zone. So he had $100,000 in design work done and is beginning the process of getting detox certification from the state, “a very strict process.”
Senior Planner Marcia Stevens confirms that the detox cener is a permitted use, but said that Abu-Moustafa also has to meet all the other qualifications of the code. In this case, the planning board turned down his site plan taking their cues from the Land Development Code which speaks to neighborhood compatibility. “It can be applied to any situation, Stevens said.”It is a long standing part of the Land Use Code.”
The 7,000 square-foot building backs up to four or five single-family homes on SE 5 street and SE 5 Court and is buffered by a fence and dense foliage.
“I am willing to accommodate any concerns,” he said of the neighbors’ fears. He has already agreed to eliminate an outdoor patio because of the protest. “You think I want unhappy neighbors? I’ll work with the community,” he said. “I’ll make it beautiful”
Abu-Moustafa built The Florida House from three separate properties, one retail, two residential, that had been troublesome spots for local law enforcement. Since he arrived here 10 years ago from Boston as an addict himself, he acquired each parcel, all in the 500 block of S. Federal Highway. One of the commercial spots has become JoJo’s Café and is open to the public.
The irony for Abu-Moustafa, 42, is that he has operated The Florida House with little fanfare for years. “No one even knows what this is,” he said. In those years, he has made major improvements and today the buildings are well tended, the landscaping lush, the pool fit for a resort.
The Florida House can accommodate 80 clients and about the same number of people are employed there including his wife Robin, who is the clinical director, and a number of psychiatrist, psychologists, clinicians and nurses. “Our clients don’t come here for the sun and fun, they come because we are a respected facility,” Abu-Moustafa said.
But the ‘No Detox Facility in my Neighborhood’ Facebook page created to gather support against his proposed facility continues to mention drug dealers. Writes Gina Dallen …”drug dealers come around and stash drugs for the addicts.” And JW Dooley said, “I don’t want to gamble my child’s safety because you need a place to detox.”
”They are stuck with the same record,” Abu-Moustafa said. “They are creating Freddy Krueger and Elm Street. A detox center is the last place to find drugs.”
He wishes his neighbors and city commissioners would come and visit. So far, only Mayor Peggy Noland has taken a tour of his campus. Abu-Moustafa thinks she was impressed with his operation, but the mayor could not be reached for comment at press time. “My door is open,” he said.
If the city commission turns down his detox site plan, Abu-Moustafa says he will not go away. “I will sue the city. It can buy the property and pay my lost wages… The city gave me permission. It is my legal right. I am not someone who takes his ball and goes home.”