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Noticed this sign on Bellinger Street proclaiming it is the "Future Site of TBY Wedding Hall"?

The sign may be looking shiny and upright, but the details behind this future wedding hall appear to be anything but shiny.

Back on February 17, 2005, Lakewood's Township Committee held a public auction where they sold several parcels of land along Oak Street.

These parcels were offered at prices substantially well below market value, - because they were being sold specifically for schools - but with a strongly worded deed restriction.

Prior to the auction, Township Attorney Steven Secare made clear the conditions of the below market value auctions, which were that the property is to be used for "educational purposes only", that no further subdivisions of the property were permitted, that construction must begin by October 31, 2008 and be completed by October 31, 2010, that it can only be sold after 15 years to another public or non-public school, and that there is a reverter clause that if the buyer ever violates any of these restrictions, the property reverts back to the Township and the buyer loses all money paid.

These conditions are also included in the legal deed of the property which was filed with the Ocean County Clerk as part of the sale of the property.

One of the parcels sold that day was a 5.30 acre parcel, consisting of Block 796, a portion of Lot 1, and Block 797, a portion of Lot 2. The opening minimum bid was $42,720.00. Rabbi Yitzchok Rozsansky, representing Tiferes Bais Yaakov School for Girls, came forward and placed a bid for the opening minimum bid. As no one else came forward, Rabbi Rozsansky was the successful bidder.

On August 16, 2005, prior to filing the deeds, Tiferes Beis Yaakov presented a Minor Subdivision application to the Lakewood Planning Board to realign the lots and consolidate them into Block 795 Lot 1.02 (5.410 acres).

The deed - with the deed restrictions - was filed with the Ocean County Clerk in December 2005. It was signed by then-Mayor Charles Cunliffe and the developers of the schools.

On July 31, 2007, TBY presented to the Planning Board their Site Plan for their school to be constructed on Block 795 Lot 1.02, at 613 Oak Street. The application was represented by Attorney Abe Penzer and Engineer Graham MacFarlane. They presented their plans for "a two story school with a basement". Based on the classroom count, 45 parking spaces were required. The application proposed 91 parking spaces. The Board did not question what will be in the basement however they did question why so many parking spaces were provided. The applicant's professionals did not reveal that the parking spaces were needed as they were going to build a simcha hall, rather because they were providing additional parking for the adjacent school (Beis Tova) to use in case they had after-hours school related events such as PTA and graduation nights.

The applicant's professionals could not reveal that they were proposing a banquet hall as the deed of the sale clearly conditions that the property is to be used "for educational purposes only" and banquet halls hardly sound like an "educational purpose".

At the same time, the Planning Board did not actually legally approve the banquet hall, rather it was built without their approval.

(By the way, fun fact: The applicant testified that they were proposing curb and sidewalk are proposed along the Oak Street frontage, and not along the then-unimproved Bellinger Street. The Board, however, conditioned the approval that if Bellinger Street does ever get improved, this school will install sidewalk along their frontage of the road. Why was this sidewalk never installed.)

As stated earlier, the 2005 deed included a clause that construction needed to be completed by October 31, 2010. This deadline passed and construction on the school building was not yet complete, and construction did not even yet begin on the second lot.

At this point, the lot should have reverted back to the Township.

No worries! Then-Mayor Menashe Miller to the rescue!

In 2011, the developers of the school pleaded to the Township Committee that they still wanted to complete construction of the school, but they were held back for financial reasons because no financial institution wanted to finance the construction unless the Township would "release the reverter as to the lender".

On March 24, 2011, then-Mayor Menashe Miller signed an agreement releasing this reverter clause "as to the lenders and any mortgage given to the lender to secure the loan given to TBY" (including any foreclosure).

In essence, this release of reverter clause would permit the bank, if they ever foreclosed on the property, to sell it for any purpose. However, the school would still be bound by the original deed.

Reverter as to Lenders

On May 30, 2012 then-Mayor Menashe Miller signed an additional agreement releasing this reverter clause "as to the construction timetable".

This release of reverter clause granted the school additional time to complete construction of the school.

[Both of these reverter releases were signed way past the October 31, 2010 deadline, so at that point the lot should have reverted back to the Township, but hey, this is Lakewood so all is cool.]

Since then, the Tiferes Beis Yaakov school was built on the portion of the lot fronting Oak Street. There is still a sizeable amount of vacant land in the rear of the lot which fronts Bellinger Street.

The school was built with a simcha hall, despite the deed restriction that it can be used for educational purposes only.

Additionally, this sign was recently posted announcing the "Future Site of the TBY Wedding Hall". Hmm... This lot was sold by the Township at a majorly reduced price, with a very specific condition - with a deed restriction - for educational purposes only. A wedding hall here just does not seem right...

[On a side note, the Township would possibly have sold these parcels for a higher amount had they included a "reverter as to the lenders" already prior to the offer of sale, as possibly, some schools held back from bidding out of concern that the deed restriction would disable them from securing a mortgage, and had the Township included the "reverter as to the lenders" prior to the offer of sale, these additional schools would have also bid and the price would have gone up.]

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Anonymous said...

When this school presents their Future Wedding Hall application to the Planning Board, they will likely require a Subdivision, and that is also restricted under the terms of their deed restriction.

Anonymous said...

It is totally unfair for the committee to give away valuable land for pennies to an entity which will use it for a revenue generating banquet hall. Had I known that the restriction for education is bogus and it could be used for the very lucrative wedding hall business -- I would've paid 10 times more than the super cheap deal which the committee gave the owner of the private school. Now the family is poised to rake it in all while the taxpayers lost out big time by selling their land at far less than fair market value!

Anonymous said...

When I voted for the members on the committee, I expected them to protect our public property chest, not to give away the bank..
How many more such deals occurred without our knowledge?