Kollel Kodshim is once again carrying the Lakewood Planning Board hearing of their Site Plan application, to November 29th. It was previously carried to this coming Tuesday night, October 25th.

As first reported here on FAA News, Kollel Kodshim, which is currently located in trailers on 12th Street between Clifton Avenue and Lexington Avenue, has filed Application SP 2436 to Lakewood Township's Planning Board for Site Plan approval for a "new three-story educational building with a basement with associated off-street parking".

The architectural plans depict a dormitory, however this is not mentioned in the application or the legal notice provided to the neighbors.

The 120’ X 150’ (18,000 SF) rectangular property is located within the R-10 Single-Family Residential Zone District which permits schools and shuls.

The site was previously subdivided into 3 lots. One lot was sold and will remain for residential. The new Kollel building will be contained in the remaining 2 lots which will be required to be consolidated as a condition of any Board approval.

The proposed project has double frontage along the southern side of Courtney Road and the northern side of Twelfth Street, east of Clifton Avenue. No sidewalk currently exists along Courtney Road or Twelfth Street but is proposed with this application.

The architectural plans appear to propose:


2,962 sq feet dining room

265 sq feet Rebbeim dining room


Coffee room

First Floor

3,421 sq feet Beis Medrash

443 sq feet Otzar

Second Floor

1,628 sq feet Ezras Noshim

2 offices

Third Floor

5 dormitory rooms

1,295 sq feet lounge

Showers, laundry room

A parking lot with a two-way access driveway 24 feet wide is proposed from Courtney Road. The parking lot will contain 19 off-street parking spaces, of which 2 will be van-accessible ADA spots. Parking spaces will be 9x18. The parking lot aisle would be 24 feet wide.

Proposed utilities will connect to existing systems within Courtney Road. The application includes provisions for landscaping, site lighting, and stormwater management.

The application is seeking several submission waivers including from providing a traffic study prior to the public hearing.

The application is also seeking numerous bulk variances including for the Combined Side Yard Setback, Minimum Front Yard Setback, and for the Maximum Building Coverage.

The application is also seeking relief from the Board from buffer requirements as a buffer of 20 feet wide is required from a residential use, and for off-street parking setback as the proposed parking lot is about 3 feet from the sidelines.

According to the review letter from Board Engineer Terry Vogt, no fencing and landscaping have been proposed to justify the required buffer relief nor the required parking setback relief.

Kollel Kodshim is being represented by Toms River Attorney Robert Shea.

Some time ago, the yeshiva caught wind that the neighbors were not in support of the yeshiva's expansion, and they summoned the neighbors to a Din Torah by a Beis Din of ZABLA. Oral arguments have been concluded and the parties are awaiting a psak from Beis Din.

In the meantime, back in September, the neighbors  received notice of an upcoming Planning Board application. As the neighbors felt it was proper to wait until Beis Din's psak is received, they retained Teaneck Attorney Jan Meyer to represent them. Mr. Meyer wrote the following letter asking the Board to postpone hearing this application until Beis Din issues their psak.

Dear Mr. Chairman and members of the Board:

This firm was retained today to represent objectors to the above listed application before your Board.

I kindly request an adjournment for the following reasons;

1. On a personal level and as a courtesy to me as counsel, I have a doctor’s appointment on September 20, 2022 in the late afternoon in Bergen County.

The appointment was scheduled more than 6 months ago and it will be difficult to get it re-scheduled within the reasonable near future.

2. On a procedural note, I am also requesting an adjournment since the applicant did bring my clients and others before a Rabbinical Court in Lakewood regarding the very same issues that are to be considered before your Board, as well as making allegations of interference with their ability to build on the premises in question. This may limit or restrict the proceedings with the Planning Board until the decision is rendered by the Rabbinical Court.

It is my understanding that all parties are awaiting a decision to be issued shortly.

It should be noted, that it was not my clients that initiated this proceeding but rather the applicant. The applicant, (another religious Jewish member of the Lakewood Community) should not have a parallel religious proceeding pending while going before a Planning Board that will impede the participation and due process of religious Jewish citizens of Lakewood. It defeats both fairness and logic. If the applicant started the proceeding to obtain a ruling by the Rabbinical court, a decision must be rendered first before moving ahead before the Board.

3. Moreover, I would like the opportunity to bring two professionals before the Board to testify and finding such is difficult on such short notice.

I contacted Mr. Shea and had a pleasant conversation regarding the adjournment request.

He stated that he did not believe his client would consent to the request.

I thank you in advance and hope that the adjournment will be granted.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Respectfully submitted,

Jan Meyer

After receipt of this letter, Kollel Kodshim agreed to carry the application until this coming Tuesday night. They are now, once again carrying the application until November 29th.

Despite the many yeshivos in Lakewood, dormitories are actually a very complex legal matter.

Lakewood Township's zoning ordinances expressly permit dormitories only in Planned Educational Campuses which are available for "not for profit institutions of higher education... [which are] fully accredited and licensed by the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education of the State of New Jersey and... offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees". Such campuses are permitted only in certain zones, and on a minimum gross acreage of three acres.

Essentially, Lakewood Township's zoning ordinances prohibit the vast majority of yeshivos from operating dormitories and therefore, an application for a dormitory would require a Use Variance from the Zoning Board. Unlike the Planning Board, the Zoning Board not only may deny such an application, but legally must deny an application unless the applicant can testify why his use variance application is a "particular case for special reasons".

In the past, the Planning Board has - at the urging of school developers - "worked around this issue" by considering dormitories to be an "accessory use" to a school, thus eliminating the need for a Use Variance from the Zoning Board.

Lakewood Township's zoning ordinances for schools do not expressly list any specifically permitted uses as accessory to a school, however, the general "Definition of Terms" defines "accessory use" as "a use, structure or building that is customarily incidental and subordinate to that of the principal and on the same lot", and this is the "work around" that the Planning Board has used in the past.

However, the Planning Board is now deep involved a lawsuit over such an approval.

Attorney Meyer is currently suing the Planning Board over their approval of a dormitory for Yeshiva Toras Chaim on Ridge Avenue. The lawsuit charges that the Board heard the application on the theory that the dormitory was an “accessory use” to the school building which is a permitted use (but which has already been constructed), however, dormitories are not a permitted use in the Township's R-15 zone and therefore, construction of a standalone dormitory would require a use variance, which must be sought before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, not the Planning Board.

In addition, the lawsuit charges that the Board refused to grant the objectors a reasonable postponement so they could retain a licensed Planner and potentially other experts to provide testimony about the jurisdiction of the board and to testify as to the plans in its design.

At a recently held Trial Readiness Conference, Attorney Meyer notified Judge Ford that he intends to soon file a Motion for Summary Judgement.

As previously reported here on FAA News, at the last Lakewood Planning Board meeting, citing this pending litigation they are fighting on the matter, board members pushed back on hearing this, and another dormitory application.

When the Board Administrator mentioned the dormitory applications, Board Chairman Moshe Neiman mentioned that "we do not yet have clarity whether or not dormitories are an accessory use to a school. We always have a 20 minute argument before all of these applications as to this issue, and I would like to avoid that."

"The best way to avoid this argument would be make some sort of ordinance that clarifies this matter", Mr. Neiman continued. [That would require the Township Committee to actually sit down and adopt such an ordinance.]

Board member David Helmreich then suggested that the Planning Board send these applications to the Zoning Board for a determination as to their permissibility under the Township's ordinance, as it is primarily the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board to make such determinations.

Board Attorney John Jackson (who, by the way, gets paid by the Township's taxpayers to fight dormitory lawsuits) pushed back saying "no, the Planning Board can make its own determination if dormitories are an appropriate accessory use to a school in this community.

An additional legal issue with the Kollel Kodshim application is their lack of mention of the dormitory in their application and legal notice.

The New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law requires applicants to provide notice to property owners within 200 feet of the application site, and requires the notice to "state the date, time and place of the hearing, [and] the nature of the matters to be considered".

The New Jersey Appellate Division has found, in the landmark 1996 case known as Perlmart vs. Lacey Twp Planning Board, that the purpose of the notice is to ensure the public is properly apprised "so they may make an informed determination as to whether they should participate in the hearing or at least look more closely at the plans on file".

More recently, in the 2019 case known as Lakewood Realty Associates vs. Lakewood Township Planning Board & RD Lakewood LLC, the Appellate Division found that by failing to mention a banquet hall in a notice for a hotel, the public notice did not adequately describe "the nature of the matters to be considered". The court was not persuaded by the applicant’s argument that the notice adequately described the proposed use because it listed a hotel, and "hotels often include bars, restaurants, and banquet facilities."

This case law will be very pertinent to the Kollel Kodshim application as the notice, whose function is to "ensure the public is properly apprised so they may make an informed determination as to whether they should participate in the hearing or at least look more closely at the plans on file", failed to mention a dormitory, and the Appellate Division in the Lakewood case was not persuaded by the applicant’s argument that the notice adequately described the proposed use because it listed a hotel, and "hotels often include bars, restaurants, and banquet facilities" - similarly, the argument that "the notice states an 'educational building' and such buildings in Lakewood often include dormitories may not withstand judicial review.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why don't they just put it in the name of Shlomo Chaim K., and it will be approved by hook or by "crook".