LAKEWOOD PLANNING BOARD CHAIRMAN: IN COURT YOU'D BE RIGHT, BUT HERE THIS IS AN "EXCLUSIVE NEIGHBORHOOD"

As earlier reported here on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/06/lakewood-planning-board-denies-9-homes.html), back on June 14, Lakewood Township's Planning Board uncharacteristically denied an application from developer Solomon Halpern of Besadar Holdings LLC to build a new cul-de-sac off 14th Street with 9 homes. The board noted that the application did appear to be fully conforming, however the neighborhood is "unique" with "specific clientele" who oppose the application and therefore the majority of the Board voted to deny the application.


The Board this week again strongly uncharacteristically advocated on behalf of this "unique" neighborhood despite renewed pushback from the developer.


On July 11, Attorney Robert Shea, on behalf of Besadar Holdings submitted a letter to the Planning Board requesting that they permit the applicant to return to the Board for an additional hearing to request that the Board "reconsider" their application.


He noted that, during the hearing, a number of issues including sufficient parking and pedestrian safety were brought up by a number of neighbors. "We will be in a position, if the Board is so inclined to reconsider this application, to submit a revised set of plans that will show a revised parking scheme for the Residential homes."


Attorney Ron Gasorowski, on behalf of the neighbors who were vehemently objecting to the application, responded with a letter to the Board opposing the request for reconsideration.


Mr. Gasorowski argued that the Board's denial "clearly demonstrates that the Board does not believe that the applicant's property can reasonably and/ or safely support the creation of 9 units with 9 basements for a total of 18 units".


Mr. Gasorowski further noted that Board members attempted to compromise with the applicant by getting him to reduce the number of lots or to remove the basement apartments, yet he refused.


Finally, Mr. Gasorowski charged that the traffic study submitted by the applicant was "faulted" as it didn't accurately count the basement apartments and therefore the application was "incomplete" at best and "actually misleading".


The Board last week held a public hearing on the matter in attendance of Attorney Shea and numerous neighbors from the neighborhood (Attorney Gasorowski was unable to be present due to a health emergency).


Attorney Shea emphasized that they continue to insist on the same number of lots and with basement apartments, however they would add additional off-street parking spaces to alleviate the neighbors concerns that parking would overflow onto Fourteenth Street which is a narrow road at this section of the road.


One of the neighbors who was objecting reminded the Board that they have grave concerns with existing drainage / flooding issues in the neighborhood and therefore they are objecting to the applicant being permitted to defer presenting the details of the proposed HOA.


The application would have required a Homeowners Association because the proposed Stormwater Management system was to be placed on private property and that 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 usually worked out with the Township Engineering Department after the Planning Board approval is granted.


In this case, however, 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.


Board Chairman Moshe Neiman uncharacteristically sided strongly with the neighbors, and he put his sentiments "on the record".


"Yes, the application is conforming, and therefore, in a court of law a judge might side with you, however, this board needs to take into account the exclusivity of this neighborhood," Chairman Neiman stated.


"We can't deny this application solely due to traffic, and if we could do that, we would deny every application because there is traffic everywhere in Lakewood. However, this is a very exclusive neighborhood, with neighbors who have lived here a long time and there are no basements in this area, therefore, this application would change the look of this whole neighborhood and that's why the neighbors fought so strongly against this application", Chairman Neiman added.


Chairman Neiman also exhorted the applicant, stating "even if the vote to reconsider is approved, I will not approve the final application unless the parties do sit down and become much closer together than they are now".


Interestingly, while the rest of the Board then voted to deny the request to reconsider the application, Chairman Neiman was the single vote in support of the request.


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