WILL LAKEWOOD'S PLANNING BOARD UPHOLD THEIR WORD? THE DEVELOPERS CAN'T HAVE THIS BOTH WAYS.

As previously reported here on FAA News, (https://www.faanews.com/2022/07/500-cars-plus-2-schools-with-banquet.html) Lakewood Township's Planning Board is scheduled this Tuesday night to hear applications for 2 yeshivos with dormitories and banquet halls.


One of those applications is for Yeshiva Gedola of South Jersey which has submitted a Site Plan application for a new yeshiva campus at 105 Newport Avenue, off Cross Street.


The yeshiva purchased this property 1 year ago from Planning Board Member Justin Flancbaum, who has since relocated to a home in Jackson Township.


The application was supposed to be presented to the Board in June, however, as the applicant failed to publish legal notices, the application needed to be carried to the next meeting on July 12. The application was again carried to July 26 after neighbors requested a postponement so they could further review the application.


After Board Administrator Ally Morris stated that the application would need to be carried to a future date, Board Chairman Moshe Neiman reminded the applicant's professionals about certain road improvements which were "promised" at an earlier application on this road.


Back on March 1, 2022, the Planning Board approved a Site Plan for a large child care center at 220 Newport Avenue. The application was contentious with numerous neighbors presenting pedestrian, traffic safety and congestion concerns, especially as many parents would be driving down the narrow road for pick-up and drop-offs.


The application originally showed plans for an oversized "unfinished basement". Some neighbors retained Brick Attorney Joseph Michelini of the O’Malley, Surman & Michelini firm to represent them in opposing the application, especially due to concerns that there would be a banquet hall in the basement. Mr. Michelini successfully negotiated an agreement that there will not be a rentable banquet hall in the basement.


Board Member Moshe Raitsik echoed many of the same traffic flow concerns expressed by the neighbors. In response, Builder Abe Aurbach of Regency Development told the Board that "while this is out of our hands" there were "3 more schools coming to 'this area' and we are actively pursuing 'several ways' to get an additional entranceway to Newport Avenue."


At the conclusion of the hearing, Board Chairman Moshe Neiman assured the neighbors that although the Board was going to approve this child care center, "when the next school coming to this block wants to get approved, I'm not saying it will get approved, we may say that we need to first wait until the road has an additional entranceway".


Chairman Neiman also noted that schools will "work harder" to get an additional entranceway to Newport Avenue, saying "the message will get out there - because Mr. Aurbach is here now - that if you want to build a school here, let's work on opening Newport Avenue out to Franklin Blvd."


To endear themselves to the Board, and to address concerns of the many vehicles driving down the narrow road, the developers of the child care center agreed to widen the entire stretch of Newport Avenue to 32 feet.


Several neighbors requested that the developers for the child care center also be required to install a sidewalk along the entire road.


Board Attorney John Jackson told the Board that it would not be unreasonable for the Board to require sidewalks on the rest of Newport Avenue, as the Board "can require off‐site improvements when they are necessitated by the application".


In response, Chairman Neiman said that it's enough that "we got a wide street and water and sewer

out of this child care center and therefore we won't also require them to install a sidewalk along the entire road", however "we may require the next school approval on the block to install a sidewalk along the entire road".


At the Board hearing in June, when it was mentioned that the application for Yeshiva Gedola of South Jersey would need to be carried, Chairman Neiman asked about the "promised" additional entranceway to Newport Avenue.


In response, Attorney Adam Pfeffer who represented the Yeshiva Gedola of South Jersey application quickly responded that "we will deal with all of that at the next meeting, but this is an existing school, already under construction".


Huh??


Yeshiva Gedola of South Jersey, which is led by its Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Sholom Strickman, is currently located in a trailer at 411 Cross Street near Massachusetts Avenue.


The plans submitted by the developers of the yeshiva propose to build - at the new location on Newport Avenue - a new building for the yeshiva and banquet hall, and gut the existing house and convert it into a dormitory, and to also build 2 houses for faculty members.


The application has not even been presented to the Planning Board so nothing can yet be considered "already under construction".


What in the world is Attorney Adam Pfeffer saying??


We looked further into the matter. Turns out that the developers of the yeshiva received construction permits from the Township construction department to demolish/ gut the interior of the home (the future dormitory) as well as to install a sprinkler system in the house.


The developers were able to receive these permits prior to the Yeshiva receiving Planning Board approval on their Site Plan because these permits are not technically connected to the future construction, i.e. anyone can get permits to demolish a home regardless of whether or not they have approvals to construct anything afterwards, and, anyone can install a sprinkler system even in single family homes which this future dormitory is still considered.


As such, these permits are not required to be predicated by a Planning Board approval.


Ok, so now we know why they can demolish and install a sprinkler system.


However, they can not also claim that this construction work makes the school "already under construction" as no school construction can be done until after the Planning Board grants approval for the Site Plan. 


In other words, they can not have things both ways.


While we are on the topic of this yeshiva campus, banquet halls and school dormitories are not permitted uses in this zone. Additionally, the proposed faculty homes are duplexes. This zone only permits Single Family Houses but not duplexes. At the Plan Review meeting, the applicant's engineer acknowledged this issue and pledged to provide updated architecturals so the faculty homes will not be duplexes. However, to date, no revised architecturals have been submitted.


As such, we are very unsure how the Planning Board can dare claim to have jurisdiction on this application.



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