Monday, March 4, 2024

Knowlton Board Rejects Hayden’s House Application

The Knowlton Township Board of Adjustment this month denied a variance for Hayden’s House of Healing, which would have formalized the activities of the non-profit group that supports grieving parents and families.

The founders of Hayden’s House, Rob and Ady Dorsett, have claimed that they are being forced out of the Ivan Road property.

Township officials say that is not the case, pointing to support the township committee offered to the organization when issues first arose last summer.

Board of adjustment attorney Roger Thomas said the facility had to comply with regulations particularly with large numbers of people staying there for retreats.

Since that time, a number of neighbors of the house have complained to the committee of loud get-togethers stretching into the wee hours and other problems. Issues with Hayden’s House first came to light in the summer of 2022 when firefighters answered an alarm at the house and observed a large number of people staying in the house.

That resulted in an investigation in which township officials raised concerns about the residential property having sufficient fire suppression, septic and parking facilities. Town officials then issued an order to cease operations until an application was made to the board of adjustment, which led to the first notice of violation.

Shortly after, several dozen people—many of whom had lost children and were helped through their grief by Hayden’s House—attended an August 8th committee meeting and told their stories.

Several committee members expressed admiration for the efforts and the work of Hayden’s House. Nonetheless, town officials explained to the Dorsetts, who were at the August 8th meeting, that they still had to go through the proper permit processes.

Michael Tironi, the president of the Countryside Lake Property Owners Association, a homeowners association that includes a number of residential properties adjacent to and near the Ivan Road Hayden’s House, said at a November committee meeting that the facility has morphed beyond a retreat house for grieving parents.

“Other activities are taking place, not just retreats,” Tironi said at the meeting, where he was accompanied by several dozen neighbors. “Board of directors meetings, volunteer planning meetings and the use of the house by sponsors.”

Tironi said those uses have included events that include alcohol that go late into the night.

Hayden’s House abuts a small lake owned by the homeowners association, Tironi said, which exposes the HOA to liability.

“We have people under the influence on and in our lake unsupervised,” Tironi said. “We have people under the influence yelling and screaming at all hours of the night. We have attendees going on other association members’ property.”

Tironi said that many of these events take place without supervision of Rob and Ady Dorsett, the founders and chief officers of Hayden’s House.

Contacted after the November committee meeting, Rob Dorsett said that he is always at the house during any event. He also disputed the characterization of the retreat house morphing into a social gathering place.

“Absolutely not,” Dorsett said about the facility being used for parties although when asked about an event when neighbors came to the door to complain in the early morning hours, he did say “that got a little rowdy.”

Dorsett said he apologized to the neighbors afterward.

Hayden’s House had previously been issued a notice of violation for operating illegally as its core mission as a retreat house by the township and a has now been issued a court summons for failure to respond to the first notice, said township officials.

The Dorsetts said they will find another location and are considering nearby Hope Township.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.