OCEAN COUNTY FORCED TO MONITOR BANQUET HALLS AFTER LAKEWOOD BOARDS PROVE TO BE INCAPABLE

Lakewood Township's Planning Board happily and quickly grants approvals to developers to build Simcha Halls (banquet halls) in school basements - without sufficient parking - eventhough banquet halls are not permitted uses in most zones in town. The Board has even allowed the developers to sneak in Simcha Halls without the legally required public notice to the neighbors.


Ocean County officials have learned of the issue, and the county is now upping their game and keeping a more watchful eye on applications for schools in Lakewood.


As previously reported on FAA, the Lakewood Township Planning Board recently held a very contentious hearing on a school application which was already approved back in March 2019.


Beis Reuven Kaminetz previously received Planning Board approval for their 15-unit Subdivision, yeshiva, and a Simcha Hall in the basement. The yeshiva did not advertise in their legal notice to the neighbors that they were planning to include a banquet hall in their building.


The New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law requires applicants to provide notice to property owners within 200 feet of the application site. The notice "shall state the date, time and place of the hearing, [and] the nature of the matters to be considered".


The New Jersey Apellate Division, in the landmark Perlmart case, has found that the purpose of the notice is to ensure the public is properly apprised "so they may make an informed determination as to whether they should participate in the hearing or at least look more closely at the plans on file".


Additionally, in Lakewood Realty Associates v. Lakewood Township Planning Board & RD Lakewood LLC, the Apellate Division found that by failing to mention a banquet hall in a notice for a hotel, the public notice did not adequately describe "the nature of the matters to be considered". The court was not persuaded by the applicant’s argument that the notice adequately described the proposed use because it listed a hotel, and "hotels often include bars, restaurants, and banquet facilities."


As previously reported here on FAA News, neighbors of the Kaminetz Yeshiva are currently litigating their case in the Apellate Division. Similarly to Perlmart and the Lakewood hotel cases, their lawsuit argues that by not listing the proposed banquet hall, the public notice failed to adequately describe "the nature of the matters to be considered".


Despite the Lakewood Planning Board's eagerness to continue to approve banquet halls with insufficient parking and no notice to the public, the Ocean County Engineering Department and Planning Board are now keeping a more watchful eye.


Following the Kaminetz fiasco, the county is now demanding to be told "the full story", and the losers are future schools, including Aderes Beis Yaakov.


Aderes Beis Yaakov received Lakewood Planning Board approval back in June 2021, however, due to the proposed Simcha Hall, the Ocean County Planning Board put a major halt in their plans.


Their plans include construction of a two-story school building as well as another two-story school / wedding hall building, on Lanes Mill Road.


Their original public notice failed to mention a banquet hall.


At their initial Planning Board hearing, keen-eyed residents commented about the failure to notice for the banquet hall. The residents also commented that the Board lacked jurisdiction to hear the application as banquet halls are not a permitted use in that zone.


The Board insisted that the banquet hall could go forward for approval, but they needed to renotice with mentioning the hall.


Aderes then renoticed with a mention of a "multi-purpose hall" in the building.


Despite their Lakewood Township approval, plans for the school have been majorly halted.


Why?


The Ocean County Engineering Department ruled that the project requires a CAFRA permit and that application of a CAFRA permit is required before the plan can receive county approval.


A CAFRA permit is costly and can take several years to obtain.


"Educational Facilities" are exempt from obtaining CAFRA permits. Thanks to the Kaminetz Yeshiva fiasco, the county is now keeping a more keen lookout for planned banquet halls, and the county has determined that the banquet hall is not included in the "Educational Facilities" exemption.


Another case of this domino effect is a planned office building adjacent to the Aderes Beis Yaakov site. At the Zoning Board hearing, planners for the office building testified that the insufficient parking for the office building would be offset by the parking at the adjacent school. The Zoning Board responded to this plan, "you can only get building permits once the school is actually built. Thanks to the county requiring a CAFRA permit, we don't know if, and when the school will actually get built."


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