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In an extremely stunning move, Lakewood Township's Planning Board this week denied an application which seeked approval for 9 new single family homes on a cul-de-sac road along the southwest side of Fourteenth Street, southeast of Curtis Lane.

The application which was filed by Solomon Halpern of Besadar Holdings, was represented by Attorney Robert C. Shea, Esq., and Engineer Brian Flannery.

There is currently a one-story frame dwelling and a pool on this 3.2 acres site which was the former home of infamous land owner Sydney Krupnik. There are many trees on this "secluded site".

Many neighbors, represented by Attorney Ron Gasiorowski and Engineer Gordon Gemma, opposed the application citing traffic safety concerns. They also spoke highly of their "unique neighborhood" which by and large does not have basement apartments. They also noted that there is no stopping or standing along their narrow section of Fourteenth Street.

When the Board questioned the applicant whether or not he proposed to build basements, he responded "perhaps yes, perhaps no". The applicant's professionals denied a proposal by the Board to approve the application with an imposition of a deed restriction prohibiting basement apartments.

The application proposed a standard 32 foot wide road pavement, curb and sidewalk, 4 parking spaces per home, and a stormwater management system on-site and within the cul-de-sac, as well as extensions of utility mains, landscaping, and streetlighting.

Each of the single family homes were proposed on 12,000 sq foot lots, as is permitted in the R-12 Single-Family Residential Zone District. As such, no variances were requested, making this technically a "fully conforming application". However, there were some minor submission and design waivers requested which the Board weighed heavily on.

Lakewood Township's Unified Development Ordinance requires developers to submit architectural plans with a minimum of 4 basic house designs for proposed residential development consisting of 7 to 15 dwellings. The applicant did not submit the required architectural plans.

In response, the applicant’s engineer indicated that the proposed lots in this subdivision will be sold to individual buyers who will build custom homes and therefore it's not possible to submit architectural plans now.

Applicants are also required to provide an Environmental Impact Statement. In response, the applicant’s engineer claimed no environmental constraints are present on site.

The application seeked a design waiver from providing non-radial lot lines. The Board Engineer recommended that the Board should grant this design waiver because the non-radial lot lines have been designed such that 2 of the proposed lots will meet the minimum area and width requirements, while keeping stormwater management facilities entirely on a single lot.

The application also seeked a design waiver from proposing street trees along the entire Fourteenth Street frontage. The applicant’s engineer indicated that they are requesting this design waiver because their proposed stormwater management system will be in the way of the required street trees.

Additionally, the application seeked a landscaping waiver. Originally, at the initial application submission, the application proposed only minimal landscaping consisting of some street trees, and no foundation or buffer plantings. The neighbors vehemently argued that the site is currently heavily forested and they wanted to maintain the "secluded area" feeling. The Township Shade Tree Commission agreed that the proposed landscaping plan was insufficient and they recommended additional tree plantings. In response, the applicant agreed to install some additional trees. However, the application still seeked a waiver from providing sufficient landscaping and buffering between proposed lots. The applicant’s engineer explained that this waiver is being requested because the future homeowners may want to provide fencing between lots.

The application would have required a Homeowners Association because the proposed Stormwater Management system was to be placed on private property would require an HOA to maintain.

As is typical at Planning Board applications, the details of the proposed HOA was not presented to the Board as that is typically worked out with the Township Engineering Department after the Board approval is granted.

In this case the neighbors opposed deferment on submitting the specifics of the HOA out of concern that this development would cause drainage and flooding on Fourteenth Street and the Township would not be sufficiently protected to ensure someone is responsible to maintain the Stormwater Management system.

This application got very special treatment from the Planning Board, which typically approves new developments easily, especially if they are technically fully conforming.

The Board cited concerns that there would be insufficient parking both off and on-street due to the "possibility" that there would be basements.

Board Chairman Moshe Neiman explained that his hesitations with this application were due to the "uniqueness" and "specific clientele" of the Fourteenth Street neighborhood.

The applicant's attorney reminded the Board that they are not legally permitted to deny an application solely due to off-site traffic conditions.

In response, a board member stated that "we can consider the safety of the neighborhood".

Board Attorney John Jackson advised the Board that the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law prohibits the Board from being arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious in their decision or from imposing arbitrary conditions on any specific applicant, however, if there are "peculiar conditions" on the site than the Board does have latitude to deny the application.

Before voting on the application, the Board proposed to approve the application with a condition imposing a deed restriction from building basement apartments. The applicant refused this offer.

Finally, the Board voted overwhelmingly to deny the application. 6 members voted to deny, 1 voted to approve, and 2 members abstained from voting.

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