DOES THIS LAKEWOOD SCHOOL DEVELOPER HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE?

Yet another Lakewood school developer is trying to sneak something through the Township's Planning Board without notice to the neighbors.


The big questions are 1) what are they really planning to build, and 2) why are they afraid to notify the neighbors of their plans?


The developers of Talmud Torah Darkei Avoseinu, which is located at 1500 Pine Street near Albert Avenue, have submitted a letter of correspondence to the Planning Board seeking permission to "install a kitchen and finish the basement". 


The correspondence letter states as follows:


"This is regarding to a school that we got approval at 1500 Pine Street. This was the school which we initially agreed at the hearing to avoid putting in any kitchen or finishing the basement, as there was no sewer available in the area and we can not get the kitchen installed on septic.


"We did get sewer hooked up to the MUA, and we would like to go ahead and install a kitchen and finish the basement for the school use only.


"The client agrees to limit the use not to have any hall rental for outside events. This is simply to allow the school to function properly."


Hmm.... Let's take a look at the history of this school application.


The developers of the school originally received Site Plan approval from Lakewood Township's Planning Board back on August 8, 2017.


At that hearing, the developers were represented by Attorney Miriam Weinstein and Engineer Glen Lines of NewLines Engineering. They presented plans for a "2-story elementary school building with a partial slab basement".


Abe Aurbach, of Regency Development, represented to the Board that the basement would consist of approximately 2,000 sq feet and it would be for storage and utilities only and it would not be finished for any other use and there would certainly not be any Simcha Hall there.


As part of their standard resolution of approval, the Planning Board stipulated that the "Applicant shall resubmit this entire proposal for re-approval should there be any deviation from the terms and conditions of this approval or the documents submitted as part of this application, all of which are made a part heareof and shall be binding on the applicant".


Subsequently, on June 19, 2018, the developers of the school returned to the Planning Board for an amendment of their Site Plan approval to complete construction in 2 phases.


They submitted their request under "correspondence" and they opened the meeting to public participation.


At that hearing, the developers of the school were represented by Attorney John Doyle and Abe Aurbach, of Regency Development.


They explained that the State's Building Code requires that a school of their proposed size be serviced by sewer. Their currently is no sewer connection in their area, however, in conjunction with nearby residential development, there will be sewer available within 18 to 24 months.


As such, they requested to split their project to build the basement and first floor on septic and to keep their second story unfinished and as a shell without sheetrock, plumbing and electric, until sewer is available.


Following this storyline, we see that buildout of the basement was never predicated on sewer hookup, as only the second floor was predicated on sewer hookup. Additionally, the basement was presented as "for storage and utility use only".


From the architectural plans submitted now by the developers, it appears that they are planning to build a 792 sq feet commercial kitchen in the basement. This leaves only about 1,200 sq feet of unknown space. That is small for a rental hall, however, some questions remain:


1) Why are the developers now representing to the planning board that buildout of the basement was predicated on sewer hookup when this was never their representation at the earlier hearings?


2) What is the need - and basis - to submit this change under correspondence with no notice to the neighbors? As previously explained on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/06/school-wants-to-get-banquet-hall.html), per Planning Board policy, "correspondence", which does not require notice to the public and officially does not permit for the public to comment on the application, is for "miniscule, insignificant changes" which could really be approved administratively by the Board's professionals but the Board reviews such requests anyways to ensure that their professionals are carrying out the original intent of the board.


3) The developers of the school represented to the Board back in 2017 that there will be no Simcha Hall. As seen in photos at https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid0dJSBMp7UGfxxRZbKVB8u3nFdYdiiMRXcctJyH3S5xkafZj7QFuMrC1rqizNEgpRml&id=1743299385722673, Mesivta Keren Orah held a Melava Malka for parents in the T"T Darkei Avoseinu building.


Do they really not have any Simcha Hall?


What's going on here?


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