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As previously reported here on FAA News, Lakewood Township's Planning Board is currently scheduled to continue hearing Application SD 2511 which could add an additional 500 cars to the Cross and James Street traffic, next Tuesday, December 6th.

The application, filed under the name Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah, (and fully owned by developer Sharon Dachs of Deerfield Holdings), seeks approval to build a brand new residential development at the 17.5 acre parcel on the northeast corner of Cross Street and James Street with 125 homes plus basement apartments. That is 250 families, and approximately 500 cars. For some unexplained reason, the developer is even trying to get away with a very undersized playground.

As fully explained here in our comprehensive background report on how Lakewood Township officials paved the way to enable this application to be presented as a permitted use, in 2018 the Township Committee adopted an Ordinance that would enable the developers of this application to simply "file an application" for an Educational Campus and then to re-submit for all these duplexes. No legal notice was provided to the neighbors regarding those meetings and no public participation was even permitted at the meetings (members of the public who attempted to speak up were rebuffed).

Attorney Jan Meyer who is representing a group of neighbors who are opposing the application, has now sent a letter to the Board, formally demanding that Board Member Justin Flancbaum recuse himself from sitting on the application, citing his major of conflict of interest with Adam Pfeffer, the attorney for the applicant.

The letter, in part, states:

Dear Mr. Chairman and Members:
We want to point the Board to the issue of a member conflict in this matter. Mr. Justin Flancbaum should be recused in this matter.
We have recently learned, that Mr. Flancbaum is not only a close friend of Adam Pfeffer, Esq the applicant’s attorney, but also a client of same. It is an inherent conflict that cannot be waived. Clearly the conflict is both apparent here and as cited in the Local Government Ethics Law that expressly extends member’s disqualification to reach... “direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonable be expected to impair his objective or independence of judgment”, In fact, this is also clearly set out in MLUL, prohibiting a board member from acting on any mater in which he has either directly or indirectly “ any personal or financial interest”.

This is not the first time Mr. Flancbaum is sitting on the Board when this application SP2290 was heard and Mr. Pfeffer being the applicant’s attorney.

This happened also on March 3, 2020 where Mr. Flancbaum pro-actively made the motion to allow the applicant “to come back and get heard however they want to present”. This was a threshold motion that was made to allow the applicant to continue the application rather than denying any further applications subject to the “very strange application” of the Planned Educational Campus ordinance. This was highly inappropriate and unlawful in accordance with the applicable law.

We contend, that this is also an instance where the actions of the Board, due to Mr. Flancbaum’s involvement would render the action invalid since; “his interest so tainted the Board’s action as to invalidate the action, regardless of fraud or bad faith”.

We have also recently learned that Mr. Flancbaum had ownership and/or control of another piece of property that was sold and used under the Planned Education Campus ordinance. This makes the violation and the need for the recusal much more apparent.

Going even further back to 2018 when the ordinance was in its making. On July 8th, the Township Committee introduced an Ordinance to permit "In all Residential Zoning districts, any tract for which a complete application for a Planned Educational Campus has been filed with the Lakewood Planning Board... re-approval for development of that tract shall be conditionally permitted in accordance with the provisions of the R-7.5 District." The Planning Board reviewed the Ordinance on July 10, 2018.

During that time Mr. Pfeffer represented at least one of the applicants that would benefit of this change to the ordinance. Eventually the Planning Board voted on the Ordinance and the vote came out 4-4. One of the votes approving of the ordinance was Mr. Flancbaum. Mr. Flancbaum never disclosed his conflict or volunteered to recuse himself in clear violation of the Local Government Ethics Law. He should not have voted on this particular agenda item but recused himself or at best abstained. This would likely have resulted in a different outcome.

In fact, the action of the Board with respect to the recommendation and approval of the Board related to the Planned Education Campus ordinance must be invalidated and annulled. The actions of the Board, due to Mr. Flancbaum’s involvement would render the action invalid since; “his interest so tainted the Board’s action as to invalidate the action, regardless of fraud or bad faith”.

Counsel on behalf on our client, reserves all issues related to the conflict of interest and the impact on the introduction of the Planned Educational Campus as well as during any hearings previously held as listed above. Obviously, we also reserve all rights and preserve any legal issues during this within application.

It is our belief and opinion that this application can not go forward and must be dismissed.

In the event, the Board proceeds, over our objection, with the application, we seem
to recollect that the Board asked the applicant (to our understanding in name only), Rabbi
Pruzansky to appear before the Board and testify to issues related application."

The Planning Board has not yet responded to this letter.

At the initial hearing on this application, Board Member Eli Rennert called this application "abuse of the 2018 Ordinance". Board Chairman Moshe Neiman agreed with that terminology and added that "the background of this application is too murky for us to vote on this application."

Chairman Neiman attempted to settle with Mr. Pfeffer to resubmit as an R-12 (single family homes on 12,000 sq feet lots). Mr. Pfeffer held his ground that "our application stands as submitted".

Adam Pfeffer is also the attorney for the Lakewood Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) of which Justin Flancbaum is the Executive Director. After Mr. Pfeffer gets development applications approved at the Planning Board (on which Justin Flancbaum sits) the developers go to the MUA for their water approval.

Justin Flancbaum was Chairman of Lakewood's Master Plan Committee. Adam Pfeffer was a member of the Committee, and also a member of the Housing Density Subcommittee which held a number of closed door, unannounced, sessions in which the Subcommittee members voted to change the zoning of numerous parcels of land around town (which Adam then represented at their Planning Board hearings). By the way, isn't it amazing that of all the people the Township Committee could have appointed to the Housing Density Subcommittee, they chose Adam who neither lives nor works in Lakewood, but does represent developers and is connected to Justin...

According to public records obtained by FAA News, when Justin Flancbaum sold his Newport Avenue home to Yeshiva Gedola of South Jersey, Adam Pfeffer was his personal attorney. Justin also has ownership in several corporations which were registered by Adam Pfeffer.

After selling his Lakewood home, Justin moved to Jackson. Under State law (NJSA 40:55D-23), most Planning Board members are required to leave the board if they move out of town, however, Justin is legally permitted to stay on the Board despite moving out of town because, as an MUA official, he is a Class II member of the Board and they are not required to reside in the municipality.

This appears to be the very first time that an attorney has called out such a major conflict of interest in a Planning Board member.

According to accepted legal standards, "a conflict of interest creates corruption risk when an employee or contracted third party breaches the duty due to the company by acting in regard to another interest and does not advise the company of this."

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Anonymous said...

The boys also went to Day School together. They've been tight buddies with Senator Singer for many years.

silverman said...

yes yes.
for years they have been doin bu$ine$$ together

Josh S said...


We’ve all been whispering about these things for years, but we never told the world about them.

Lakewooder said...

Kudos to the attorney. We all knew about this “unique” relationship. It’s about time these kinds of things that have been going on with our land use boards are stopped. I would be surprised if JF decides to push back. He should be smart and recuse before more comes out. The cat’s out of the bag.

Anonymous said...

Follow the money...