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Lakewood's famous Lake Terrace banquet and concert hall is finally tonight to seek a Use Variance from the Township's Zoning Board - something that they have never thought to apply for until forced to by multiple lawsuits.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Lake Terrace is currently embattled by 2 separate lawsuits filed against them by their industrial neighbor Clayton Associates, which allege that Lake Terrace never received proper approval from the Township's Zoning Board.

Lake Terrace is located in a zone designated by the Township as the Airport Hazard area and that does not permit schools nor banquet halls. Therefore, either use would require a Use Variance approval from the Township's Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Back in 2005, Beis Rivka Rochel received Zoning Board approval to change the use of an office building located at 1690 Oak Street into a "private school with an assembly hall".

At the Zoning Board hearing, School Dean Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Kanarek testified that his proposed "assembly hall" would be used for High School plays. There was never any mention of weddings and concerts.

The Zoning Board's 2005 Resolution of Approval for the "school and assembly hall" clearly states that if there are any changes to the project as approved, the applicant shall "resubmit any such changes to this Board for review and determination". No application for an amended approval was ever submitted to the Board.

Somehow, after this Zoning Board approval, the Lake Terrace wedding and concert hall was built, and in 2010, unexplainably, Lakewood Township issued a Certificate of Occupancy for a banquet hall, despite the owners never receiving a Use Variance from the Zoning Board for this banquet hall.

In December 2020, Clayton Associates, represented by Attorney Rob Shea, filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down the banquet hall on the basis that it never received the required Use Variance from the Zoning Board.

After an initial injunction hearing on the matter, on February 3, 2021, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford signed an Interim Order permitting Lake Terrace - pending the outcome of the lawsuit - to continue hosting weddings, but with certain restrictions. That interim order, as well as several additional interim orders, continue to permit operation of the banquet hall with certain restrictions on the on-street parking as well as the maximum number of guests.

As previously reported here on FAA News, in December 2021, after learning that Lake Terrace was also hosting large concerts, Clayton Associates filed a separate lawsuit seeking to ban all concerts at Lake Terrace on the basis that Lake Terrace never received Township Zoning Board approval for a "concert hall". Superior Court Judge Craig L. Wellerson then ordered that concerts are not to be held at all at Lake Terrace. (The concert hall issue was deemed differently than the banquet hall issue as the Township did at one point issue a Certificate of Occupancy for a banquet hall, they never issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the concert hall use and therefore Lake Terrace had no legal standing to retain that non-permitted use).

On March 16, 2022 Lake Terrace filed a Motion to amend the restraining order to permit concerts to take place on the property.

Judge Ford held oral arguments on April 14, and denied the motion, saying "what you're asking me to do is to bypass the Land Use boards in Lakewood and to grant your request to conduct the business. And your basis is simply for 1) it's a profitable business, and 2) because we've done it [illegally] all along".

More recently, on August 12th, Clayton Associates filed a Motion for Summary Judgement on this lawsuit to close things out with a final order that concerts can not be held at Lake Terrace.

On August 30th, Lake Terrace's Attorney Matthew Fiorovanti filed Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgement, and a Cross-Motion to Stay the Litigation pending the outcome of their Zoning Board application.

In his motion filing, Mr. Fiorovanti indicated that Lake Terrace has submitted an application for use variance and site plan approval to the Board to allow the Property to continue to be used for banquets, weddings, concerts, and all other manner of events and gatherings - "not as an admission that it is not permitted to use the Property to host banquets, weddings, concerts or other events, but rather to bring an end to the lengthy and costly litigations instituted by Plaintiff".

Mr. Fiorovanti noted that the Board has scheduled a special public meeting on the application for October 24, 2022. "At that time, or at some time shortly thereafter, if the Board approves the application, the Board will conclusively decide that the Property can continue to be used to host concert events. At that time, this litigation will be rendered moot, as the Board will have resolved the sole issue presently before the court: whether the Property can continue to be used to host concert events, and therefore, instead of the court reaching this question of whether or not the Property can continue to be used to host concert events, "in accordance with applicable principles of judicial economy, the court should stay this litigation pending the outcome of KBS’s application."

Curiously, Lakewood Township - at taxpayer expense - joined in the efforts on behalf of Lake Terrace!

Attorney Danielle A. Rosiejka, submitted a 13 page Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgement, all to beg Judge Ford not to order the Township to enforce its own zoning laws!

Ms. Rosiejka admits that "it is undisputed that the subject property is located in a zone in which a “concert hall” is not a permitted use", however, she argues that Mandamus (which would direct the Township to enforce its zoning ordinances) should not be granted here because.... 1) while there is no dispute that this use is not permitted, the Plaintiff has failed to state how the zoning violation "has especially affected the plaintiff",... 3) there is "another adequate form of relief" as "the Defendant has applied for a use variance before the Zoning Board and the Plaintiff’s concerns about the property will be addressed in that forum".

Attorney Shea filed a Reply Brief, clarifying that the two arguments which are, 1) the permissibility of the concert use is pending before the Zoning Board and all judicial action should be held until the Zoning Board hears the case and rules on the matter, and 2) the Plaintiff does not need to run to court as they will have an appropriate remedy at the Zoning Board, is all nonsense, as despite whatever use variance relief the Zoning Board may grant in the future, it does not change the fact that this use is currently not permitted, and while the Zoning Board can determine whether or not to grant a Use Variance, they can not determine whether or not Lake Terrace can continue concerts until they obtain a Use Variance. Therefore, the matter is up to the Township to enforce their zoning laws, and if he Township simply refuses to enforce its own ordinances, the Plaintiff does have no other remedy than to seek the Court's order.

Judge Ford ultimately granted the Stay, which leads us up to tonight's Zoning Board hearing.

The Zoning Board has scheduled a special meeting for tonight at 7:00pm at Town Hall to hear this application.

Clayton Associates will be fully represented by Mr. Shea as well as their own planners and traffic experts who will testify in strong opposition to the granting of the Use Variance.

Parking is expected to be the number one hot issue.

Lake Terrace currently has 379 parking spaces. Due to the numerous court hearings they had recently regarding the congestion caused to the adjacent roadways by all the on-street parking, Clayton is likely to argue that Lake Terrace does not have sufficient parking to be granted a Use Variance.

This is not the first time that Lake Terrace has applied to the Zoning Board in an attempt to get rid of the lawsuits.

Lake Terrace also submitted an application last year to the Zoning Board for a Use Variance so they could finally seek legal approval for their banquet hall. While their application was pending they filed a motion to get the judge to declare the lawsuit moot on the basis that "this site is now in the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board". In response, attorneys for Clayton seeked court approval to shut down Lake Terrace until - if, and when - it receives Zoning Board approval. Judge Ford denied to declare the lawsuit moot. A short while later, Lake Terrace mysteriously withdrew their appliance from the Zoning Board.

Even if the Zoning Board does grant the requested Use Variance, it's unlikely that concerts will restart very soon, because the New Jersey Department of Transportation requires a special approval from them for every Use Variance a Zoning Board grants in the Airport Hazard area, and, on February 7th, at the request of Mr. Shea, Judge Ford signed an amended Order to say "Defendants are enjoined from using the property as a concert hall until such time that there is a change in the use authorized by the Lakewood Zoning Board of Adjustment and Defendants have satisfied any and all conditions contained within such resolution" - likely those conditions will include getting DOT approval which will likely take some time.

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