It appears that 3 applications for dormitories currently pending before Lakewood Township's Planning Board are not going to be presented until after a Court hearing on the legality of the Planning Board approving dormitories.

The outcome of this Court hearing may bar the Planning Board from considering future dormitory applications.

Lakewood Township's zoning ordinances expressly permit dormitories only in Planned Educational Campuses which are 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 zoning districts, 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.

Now, however, the Planning Board is deep involved in a lawsuit which aims to lay down the law and set the record straight that the Township Committee does indeed not permit dormitories (besides for in a Planned Educational Campus) and therefore the Planning Board lacks jurisdiction to approve dormitories.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford is set to hear oral arguments on the Motion for Summary Judgement filed by Ridge Avenue neighbors against Yeshiva Toras Chaim, seeking to overturn their dormitory approval. The oral arguments are scheduled for Friday, December 16.

Though Judge Ford's decision in that case is not legally binding on future land use applications, if Judge Ford overturns Yeshiva Toras Chaim's Planning Board approval, future yeshivos will have a much more difficult case trying to convince the Planning Board that they do have jurisdiction to approve a dormitory.

3 dormitory applications are currently pending before the Planning Board, and for various reasons they are being postponed until at least Tuesday December 20 - a mere 4 days after the motion hearing against Yeshiva Toras Chaim.

1) Migdal Bais Yaakov, a girls seminary which last year received Planning Board approval to change the use of a residential dwelling into their school for 25 students, is now applying for approval to construct 2 school buildings.

Application SP 2498 is for construction of an approximately 27,263 sq foot school building with a dormitory, and a gymnasium, and pool.

Application SP 2499 is for construction of an approximately 16,572 sq foot elementary school building with a gymnasium and pool. [Read more about these applications here on FAA News.]

These applications, which are represented by Sean Gertner, Esq. presented initial testimony last month. The Board has tabled the application until further notice, until they submit revised plans because the Site Plan, which is located on a County-owned road, is not consistent with what the county wants to see for driveway access onto their roads.

2) 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".

Despite the application and legal notice provided to the neighbors not disclosing a dormitory, the architectural plans do depict a dormitory.

As first reported here on FAA News, it was initially scheduled to be presented to the Planning Board on September 20th.

The neighbors retained Attorney Jan Meyer who notified the Board that the yeshiva had taken the neighbors to Beis Din on the matter of their trailers and they were awaiting a psak from Beis Din. The Board then carried the application until October 25th.

Prior to the October 25th hearing, at the request of Rob Shea Esq who is representing the yeshiva, the application was carried to the November 29th meeting.

Mr. Shea has again submitted a request to carry until the December 20th meeting.

3) Congregation Yeshiva Gedola, which appears to be Yeshiva Mishkan Hatalmud (Rav Ehrlich's yeshiva), which is owned by Eli Schwab, has submitted Application SP 2486 for a Site Plan at 261 Joe Parker Road.

The legal notice states that the application seeks "approval for the construction of a new two-story school building with a partial basement and a faculty housing building" - with no mention of a proposed dormitory, however, the Board Engineer who has reviewed the architectural plans submitted note that they depict dormitory rooms.

As previously reported here on FAA News, the revised architectural plans were not submitted to the Board Secretary 10 days in advance of the meeting as required by the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law and Township Ordinance, and therefore the Board legally lacked jurisdiction to hear the application.

Following exposure on FAA News of this issue, the Board wisely agreed to carry the application until the upcoming November 29th meeting.

This application is currently still on the upcoming November 29th meeting agenda, however, turns out that the revised architectural plans are still not yet available to the public as required, therefore legally the Board can not hear the application this week.

The next meeting will be held next Tuesday, December 6th. However, it is already less than 10 days prior to that meeting as well, and therefore the Board legally needs to table the application until their following meeting which is on Tuesday, December 20th - which will already be after Yeshiva Toras Chaim's court hearing.

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