LAKEWOOD TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE REFUSES PLANNING BOARD'S REQUEST TO INCREASE PARKING REQUIREMENTS

Does this parking scene outside office buildings and shuls look too familiar to you?


It's not the fault of the Lakewood Township Planning Board. They actually did their best to increase parking requirements for office buildings.


The Township Committee - not the Planning Board - adopts zoning ordinances including parking requirements. 


The Planning Board hears applications involving only permitted uses of the land in question as defined by the Township's zoning ordinances (Use Variances can only be granted by the Zoning Board), and generally, the Board has no jurisdiction or power to deny an application that fully complies with the zoning ordinance. Therefore, the Board can not deny an application for an office building unless there are bulk variances (i.e. for lot area, lot width, and setbacks).


Prior to mid-2017, new office buildings in Lakewood required 1 parking space per 300 sq feet of gross floor area, unless they were to be located in the Cedabridge Corporate Campus as that zone required 1 parking space per 250 sq feet of gross floor area.


Shuls with less than 800 square feet of "main sanctuary space" does not require ANY parking! (And yes, there have been a number of applications for 799 sq feet shuls!)


Shuls with more than 800 square feet of "main sanctuary space" require parking as follows:


800 to 1999 square feet

1.0 spaces for every 100 sq. ft.


2000 to 2999 square feet

1.25 spaces for every 100 sq. ft.


3000+ square feet

1.50 spaces for every 100 sq. ft.


If a catering facility is also on site, the following shall apply (in addition to the parking required parking for the shul):


800 to 1999 square feet

0.75 parking spaces for every 100 sq. ft.


2000+ square feet

1.0 parking spaces for every 100 sq. ft.


Get a load of this!


"Main sanctuary area" shall not include secondary sanctuary space, mikvah, hallways, bathrooms, kitchen, and other ancillary and/or support rooms. (Think Ezras Noshim, Otzar, Cheder Sheni etc!).


A mikvah does not require parking if it has less than five changing rooms. Facilities with five or more changing rooms, require one parking space per changing room.


Additionally, residences situated on one lot or site that also has a religious or educational use on the site shall be automatically determined as one of them being "an accessory use". (The ordinance does not specify but seems to imply that a Rabbi's house does not require parking if it on the site of a shul.


Over 5 years ago, in March 2017, the Planning Board discussed the deficiency in parking at office buildings and shuls.


Board Member Eli Rennert noted that office buildings in surrounding towns require 1 parking space per 200 sq feet.


Board members discussed that shul applications were being presented with zero parking spaces and these applications were causing neighbors to complain, and the Board's hands were tied as the shuls were simply complying with the Township's ordinance.


The Board decided to send a letter to the Township Committee asking them to increase parking for shuls and office buildings.


The letter requests that the Committee amend the Ordinance to require 1 parking space per 200 sq feet of office space, and to require parking for all shuls even less than 800 sq feet (i.e. 1 space per 100 sq feet for shuls where the main sanctuary area is 0-1000 sq feet).


The Committee ignored the issues regarding shuls, but decided to compromise regarding office buildings and require 1 parking space per 200 sq feet of gross floor area.


The Committee unanimously adopted the parking increase ordinance on final reading on August 31, 2017.


Additional big issues which the Planning Board has begged the Township Committee to deal with is parking for banquet halls, dormitories, and child care centers.


Banquet halls, and dormitories are actually not expressly permitted uses in most of the zones in town.


Stand-alone "banquet halls" are not permitted in any zone. "Catering facilities" are permitted to be included in shuls, but not in schools.


In response to a lawsuit regarding a proposed hotel on Pine Street and New Hampshire Avenue where a banquet hall was proposed but never included in the legal notice, the Township Committee quietly amended the Ordinance to specify that "banquet facilities" may be included in hotels.


In April 2021, the Township Committee proposed to amend the Cedabridge Corporate Campus zone to permit banquet halls to be included in hotels at 8 parking spaces per 1,000 sq feet. Proposed land use ordinances require a review by the Planning Board. The Planning Board amended the proposal to permit banquet halls but only at 1 parking space per 1 person of the banquet hall capacity, and only if/when Pine Street is dualized. The Committee acquiesced to requiring 1 parking space per 1 person of the banquet hall capacity, but eliminated the requirement to wait until if/when Pine Street is dualized.


At the time, Mayor Ray Coles stated that he "would like to" enact this strict parking requirement for banquet halls all over town. To date, the Committee has not yet done this, so technically, banquet halls remain non-permitted uses in most zones in Lakewood.


Dormitories are only permitted as part of a Planned Educational Campus, which, according to Township ordinances, is only available to "an institution of higher education ... that is fully accredited and licensed by the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education of the State of New Jersey and one that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees". This requirement makes the vast majority of schools in Lakewood ineligible to have a dormitory.


Huh? Are you surprised? Then how did they all get there?


The answer is that one of two things are done:


1) The developers of schools and shuls solemnly testify -  under oath - to the Planning Board that there will not be any Simcha Hall or dormitory (as in the case of this application https://www.faanews.com/2022/05/lakewood-planning-board-continues-to.html).


2) The developers of schools testify to the Planning Board that the banquet hall is "an accessory use to the school". The definition and permissibility of "an accessory use" is very complex and has landed numerous schools in expensive and lengthy lawsuits, and loss of harmony with the residential neighbors.


The result of either mehalech is a bunch of dormitories and banquet halls in residential neighborhoods with insufficient parking and inadequate buffers.


Way back as part of the 2017 Master Plan, the Planning Board recommended that the Township Committee adopt specific parking regulations for dormitories and banquet halls.


More recently, the Planning Board also sent a formal letter to the Township Committee asking them to set permission for, and adequate parking requirements for, banquet halls, as well as for child care centers.


At this Thursday's Township Committee public meeting, a member of the public opined that in the 5 years since the Committee last increased parking for office buildings, even newer office buildings have insufficient parking, and asked the Committee to again increase parking for offices, noting that parking in office buildings in surrounding towns is higher than in Lakewood, and, "the same way developers can afford to build office buildings in surrounding towns with increased parking requirements, they can afford to build at the same requirement here in Lakewood".


Unfortunately, the Committee only gave a very non-commited response.


(By the way, fun fact: It always takes several months for changes to ordinances to get codified into the online ordinance database system that the Township uses. This nuance wreaked havoc with the 2017 parking increase ordinance.


As stated earlier, the Committee adopted the parking requirement amendment as Ordinance 2017-28 on August 31, 2017.


Several months later, - prior to Ordinance 2017-28 getting codified - the Township adopted their 2017 Master Plan. At that time, the planners of the Master Plan copied the text of all the land use ordinances, made the amendments which were part of the Master Plan, and then translated all of into Ordinance 2017-51 which was the Master Plan ordinance. Because Ordinance 2017-28 was not yet codified, and parking for office buildings was not amended in the Master Plan, they inadvertently copied the old requirement for parking for office buildings.


Somehow, in 2019, the codifiers of the Ordinance database caught the glitch and notified the Township. At that time, the Committee adopted Ordinance 2019-15 to clean this all up! In the meantime, any office buildings which were presented over 2018 were presented at the 1:300 requirement.)


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