IS LAKEWOOD'S TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE QUIETLY ALLOWING MORE BANQUET HALLS

As previously reported here on FAA News,

(https://www.faanews.com/2022/06/school-wants-to-get-banquet-hall.html) Lakewood Township's ordinances do not permit stand-alone banquet halls in any zone. Basement catering facilities are permitted as an accessory use to a shul, however not to a school.


Still, it is no secret that there are indeed numerous banquet halls in schools. 


If the Township Committee would legalize banquet halls then they would also set the parking requirement for a banquet hall. Without legalizing banquet halls as a permitted use, there is no set parking requirement for a banquet hall.


When there is an illegal banquet hall with insufficient parking, the residential neighbors suffer.


So why hasn't the Township Committee ever sat down and legalized banquet halls with a proper parking requirement?


One of the reasons is because they wanted to sell the land to the school for cheaper.


The breakdown of this is as follows:


When someone wants to buy land from the Township, they need to get an appraisal of what the land is worth. The appraisal looks at the "best use" for the property based on all of the uses permitted in the zone and appraises the price as such.


When land can be used for many houses, the value of the land goes up.


A way to work around this high appraisal is by placing a deed restriction on the land so that it can only be used for "educational purposes" and this makes the appraisal go down as banks will look at the property at a lesser value (because if they ever need to foreclose and sell the property they are bound to the deed restriction and they can't sell it for a more valuable use).


As such, when the Township sold land to Tiferes Beis Yaakov, Bais Tova, Tashbar, and Kol Torah they placed a deed restriction on the land that it was for "educational purposes only".


The terms of the deed restriction also included a clause that prohibited any subdivisions of the property, and a reverter clause that if the buyer ever violates the restrictions, the property reverts back to the Township and the buyer loses all money paid. Aside from just putting these terms in writing, Township Attorney Steven Secare also verbally stated these terms prior to the auction for these deed-restricted land sales.


Banquet halls are not included in "educational purposes only" and therefore these schools couldn't legally tell the Planning Board that they were building banquet halls. Instead, when Tiferes Beis Yaakov presented their plans to the Planning Board, Attorney Miriam Weinstein told the Board that the overflow parking was designed simply for "PTA nights". Of course the Planning Board accepted that story and approved the application.


So, banquet halls in schools were built without official blessing from the Township.


As such, if any neighbors would complain about insufficient parking, the Township Committee and Planning Board could rightfully say "we didn't sell the land for a banquet hall and we never permitted any banquet hall".


Up until now.


Now, the Township Committee seems to be quietly changing course to permit banquet halls - but with no additional notice to the neighbors and no set parking requirement.


At their regular monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Township Committee is set to adopt a resolution authorizing sale of two lots on Ridgeway Place (Block 368 Lot 1 and Block 363 Lot 1) for $650,000 to Toras Emes. These lots are adjacent to Toras Emes's current site.


This land sale is the result of a public auction which the Committee authorized last month. Instead of an in-person auction, the Township accepted closed bids. The minimum bid was $650,000.


The language of the deed restriction has changed slightly from the language of the deed restriction of the schools on Oak Street.


The language of the deed restriction for Toras Emes is that "the purchaser agrees that the property shall remain in a non-profit ownership and the non-profit use for school purposes in perpetuity ... or title to the property automatically reverts back to the Township of Lakewood."


"School purposes"? 


Why the sudden change from "educational purposes only"??


Is the Township Committee secretly adding in permission to build a banquet hall as part of the "school purposes"??


Fun fact: Once upon a time, the developers Toras Emes tried to get a waiver from installing sidewalk along their Ridgeway Place frontage with the claim that nothing will ever get built at the adjacent site (which the Township is now selling to them).


Back when the developers of the yeshiva received approvals from the Planning Board for their existing campus, the Board required sidewalks along their James Street and Ridgeway Place frontages. The developers of the yeshiva then tried desperately to push off installation of the sidewalk along Ridgeway Place.


On January 23, 2018 the developers of the yeshiva seeked an approval from the Planning Board to make their temporary trailers into a permanent situation. At that hearing they were represented by Attorney Sam Brown and Engineer Brian Flannery. 


Mr. Brown represented to the Board that "Ridgeway Place is a 'rural road' and sidewalks would be 'incongrous with the rest of the road' and it would 'invite children to walk onto a road which may be dangerous'.


Mr. Flannery additionally testified that "this is an area where nothing else will get developed which will extend the sidewalk."


Ultimately the Planning Board voted unanimously to require the sidewalk.


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Language of the deed restriction for the schools on Oak Street "educational purposes"⬇️⬇️⬇️



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