WHY DID THE NEW LAKEWOOD PLANNING BOARD CHAIRMAN NOT REQUIRE SIDEWALKS?

Lakewood Township's Unified Development Ordinance officially requires sidewalks in every Site Plan and Subdivision application. However, the Planning Board routinely granted waivers from installing sidewalk on applications in the Industrial park - despite the numerous amount of schools which have been built throughout the industrial park - due to pressure from the Lakewood Industrial Commission, who was pressured by the warehouse owners who were hoping to discourage schools from building in the industrial park.


In March 2019, Yeshiva Orchos Chaim applied to the Planning Board for a minor expansion of their existing campus on Oberlin Avenue and Cedar Bridge Avenue. The Industrial Commission wrote a very strong letter to the Planning Board urging them to grant a sidewalk waiver. The Industrial Commission even instructed that their letter be read into the public record at the Planning Board meeting. As a result, despite some residents urging the Planning Board to require sidewalks, the Board granted a waiver.


(Ironically, the Industrial Commission was urged to write their letter to discourage the Planning Board from requiring installation sidewalks for a school - when the whole reason to discourage sidewalks was planned as a way to discourage schools from building in the industrial park).


Following this Planning Board meeting, residents complained to Mayor Ray Coles about this strong move from the Industrial Commission, noting that numerous schools have been built throughout the industrial park and it is now time to require sidewalks on new construction in the industrial park.


In response, in the beginning of 2020, Mayor Coles directed the Planning Board to stop granting sidewalk waivers on industrial park applications. Due to the additional cost to providing sidewalks along the longe frontages, Mayor Coles stipulated that developers could install meandering asphalt walkways in lieu concrete which is more expensive.


In order to give a boost to the connectivity of sidewalks in the industrial park, Township officials explored the possibility of their own project of installing walkways along portions of roads in the industrial park, and they applied for a NJDOT grant for bike paths along the loop section of Swarthmore Avenue and Lehigh Avenue. (In late 2020 the Township was awarded a partial grant for this project. The Township Committee recently asked DOT for an extension to the timeframe to use this grant).


For over 18 months, following the direction of Mayor Coles - who has a strong record on advocating for pedestrian safety - the Planning Board has been solidly requiring sidewalks on every land use application in the Industrial Park. Specifically, former Chairman Yechiel Herzl and former Member Chaim Sabel were very instrumental in cajoling developers to agree to include sidewalks on Industrial Park applications.


Mr. Herzl and Mr. Sabel are no longer on the Planning Board and now it seems that the new chairman is no longer playing by the rules - even though there was sidewalk adjacent to the subject property!


Recently, the Planning Board heard an application for an expansion of Genworx, located at 1965 Swarthmore Avenue.


Genworx is co-owned by Yitzchak Abadi, David Grunberger, and Gedaliah Kahan. They offer flexible warehouse space to numerous tenants.


The application before the Planning Board seeked Preliminary and Final Major Site Plan approval to construct a 4-story addition on 

the front of the existing building, and a 3-story addition over a 1-story office section. The new additions, which will consist of almost 18,000 sq feet of office and warehouse

 space, will be connected to the west side of the existing building.


This section of Swarthmore Avenue has curbing, but no sidewalk. Sidewalk was not proposed with this application, and the Planning Board simply did not stipulate that the applicant is required to install a sidewalk as a condition of the approval!


Why not??


Of special importance is that the adjacent property, 1975 Swarthmore Avenue, does have a concrete sidewalk, so this would have been an easy job for the Planning Board as the developers on this application couldn't have even argued the usual "but there is no sidewalk next door.." 


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2 comments:

  1. What date was this application heard on? What's the application number?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. August 9, SP 2474, 1965 Swarthmore Partners LP

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