CHESTNUT STREET DUPLEX APPLICATION IS "ALL OVER THE PLACE" - IS THE LAKEWOOD ZONING BOARD ENGINEER FAILING NEGLIGENTLY?

Yet another Lakewood land use application is playing several zoning games - and the Board Engineer appears to be playing a blind eye to the major extent of the issues.


An application submitted by Jacob Lipshitz and Hersh Eissenberg of Chestnut Holdings NJ LLC seeks Subdivision approval from Lakewood Township's Zoning Board of Adjustment to construct a cul-de-sac off Chestnut Street across from Evergreen Avenue with 14 duplex structures (28 dwelling units).


According to the Site Plan drawn up by NewLines Engineering, the engineer for this application as well as a vast majority of Lakewood land use board applications, the 4.65 acre site is located mainly in the HD-7 zone, but the backyards of one side of the proposed homes appear to be in the R-12 zone.


The HD-7 zone conditionally permits duplexes on lot sizes of a minimum of 8,500 square feet and 60 feet wide, up to 8 duplex dwelling units and associated roadways per acre, as long as no homes are built within 200 feet of Route 9. The proposed duplexes do indeed conform to this conditionally permitted use ordinance. 


However, the R-12 zone only permits Single Family Houses on 12,000 sq feet each. Duplexes are not a permitted use in the zone. As such, a Use Variance is required for all the duplexes that cross into the R-12 zone. Under the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law, a Zoning Board may only grant a Use Variance "in particular cases for special reasons", which the applicant must prove. This is much different from a "standard" planning board application where it's a permitted use but there is a bulk variance (such as for lot size); in that case the applicant only needs to prove that "the benefits of the deviation would substantially outweigh any detriment". In that case every applicant states that Lakewood's Master Plan states that we have an insatiable need for more housing and this benefit substantially outweighs the detriment of increased traffic congestion.


Here, however, is where the applicant is playing some games.


The legal notice published by Attorney Sam Brown of The Brown Law Firm erroneously states that the site is in the HD-7 zone and the R-15 zone instead of the R-12 zone. It also states that the only use variance needed is for the existing single family home in the HD-7 zone to remain.


This legal notice is completely deficienct. As such, the Zoning Board lacks jurisdiction to hear the application until after the applicant publishes a new notice with the correct information.


Additionally, NewLines Engineering submitted to the Board a cover letter which claims that the application is variance free and that the only use variance needed is for the existing single family home in the HD-7 zone to remain.


The cover letter from NewLines Engineering fails to acknowledge that a portion of the site is actually in the R-12 zone and therefore a use variance is actually required for all those duplexes.


(By the way, doesn't it seem crazy that some residential zones in Lakewood Township permit duplexes and townhouses and do not permit Single Family Houses? Why the Township insists on ever increasing density is beyond our comprehension!)


Furthermore, the Board Engineer from Remington and Vernick Engineers seems to be playing blind to all of this. The Board Engineer reviews all applications and always provides a thorough review letter for "full disclosure purposes" so the Board understands what is being asked of them to vote on. In this case though, the Board Engineer writes simply that all the proposed duplexes are in the HD-7 zone and that the only use variance needed is for the existing single family home in the HD-7 zone to remain.


There is an additional major problem with the application.


All 28 of the new duplex houses are proposed to be accessed from one single cul-de-sac. The New Jersey Residential Site Improvements Standard (RSIS) does not permit more than 24 single family or duplex units on a cul-de-sac unless there is also an additional secondary access road.


It appears that the application seems to be trying to "work around this issue" by widening the cartway width to 40 feet wide and installing a boulevard at the intersection. RSIS permits more homes on a block as long as you widen the cartway width to 40 feet wide and install a boulevard at the intersection. The purpose of the boulevard is to maintain access for vehicles even if there is a vehicle crash at the only roadway access (the boulevard will keep vehicles from rolling over the width of the entire roadway).


The issue with is that RSIS defines a "Multifamily development" as "a development other than one-or two-family detached dwellings where the dwellings are arranged so that there are more than two units attached, regardless of the presence of lot 

lines." 


In other words, "Multifamily developments" - which are permitted to have more than 24 houses if you have a boulevard and widened roadway - is only for developments of "other than one-or two-family detached dwellings where the dwellings are arranged so that there are more than two units attached". Duplexes are not permitted to use this loophole to squeeze more houses onto the cul-de-sac road.


The applicant may attempt to "work around this issue" by rebranding their "duplexes" into "Multi-Family Housing", however, that won't work for 2 reasons:

1) RSIS clearly eliminates duplexes from the definition of a Multi-Family development.

2) Neither the HD-7 or the R-12 zone permit Multi-Family Housing. Therefore, to permit Multi-Family Housing, a use variance would be required for every single duplex, whether it is in the HD-7 zone or the R-12 zone.


As such, the applicant's method of simply adding a boulevard and widened the roadway width did not solve anything.


This application is clearly "all over the place" and should not be presented as submitted.


As previously reported here on FAA News,

(https://www.faanews.com/2022/06/breaking-news-lakewood-zoning-board.html and https://www.faanews.com/2022/05/trees-lead-to-forest-fires-so-lets-cut.html), Lakewood Township's Zoning Board recently rejected 2 applications for duplexes on Chestnut Street.


Those applications required use variances as those sites are in the R20 zone which only permits Single Family Houses on lots of at least 20,000 sq feet, and no duplexes.


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