Join Our Telegram Channel


Despite the lawsuits from Agudath Israel, the New Jersey Attorney General, and even the U.S. Justice Department, it appears that Jackson Township officials just don't get it, as Zoning Officer Jeffrey Purpuro recently denied a request made by Ashford Road residents Abraham and Hana Matzliach to use their existing detached 1,082 sq foot garage building (on which a 340.05 sq. ft. addition is proposed) as "a recreation area for their family and as an area for home worship".

The garage and its proposed addition, which is in their rear yard, does not have any existing non-conformities, nor does it seek and bulk variances.

In response, the Matzliach's who are represented by Attorney Christopher K. Costa, Esq of Storzer & Associates, P.C. have now submitted an appeal to the Township's Zoning Board seeking for them to make a determination that the zoning officer's decision was erroneous.

An appeal is different than standard Zoning Board applications which are for Use Variances. According to the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law, a Use Variance is an acknowledgement that the use is not permitted under the zoning ordinances, and the applicant seeks an approval on the grounds that they meet the criteria "in particular cases for special reasons". In contrast, an appeal is wholly procedural "where it is alleged by the appellant that there is error in any order, requirement, decision or refusal made by an administrative officer based on or made in the enforcement of the zoning ordinance", and as such, does not relate specifically to the substantive remedies which a board may grant, rather, it is limited to the question of administrative officer error.

Attorney Costa wrote to the Board, "a significant body of case law upholds the right of religious leaders to carry out a broad range of religious activities, including worship services, in their home."

Excluding the family members, the Matzliach's intend to host 20-25 people at their minyanim which would be held only Sunday through Friday, application documents show.

Storzer & Associates, P.C. is the foremost prestigious law firm, of which Journal News has written "they are the best at what they do, which is win religious land-use cases".

The application has been placed on the Board's December 7th public hearing agenda.

New Jersey case law has established that an applicant wishing to appeal from a decision of the zoning officer must generally avail himself of the right to appeal the officer's decision to the Zoning Board before resorting to filing a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking to compel municipal action. However, this is not an absolute rule. The Appellate Division in 21st Century vs. D'Alessandro found that when the questions involved are strictly legal in nature, it may be permitted to run straight to court.

Such has occurred - and worked - in Jackson Township before.

In December 2021, after Zoning Officer Jeffrey Purpuro denied Jackson homeowner Yaakov Feinstein's application to install a mikvah as an "accessory use" to a single family home on South Cooks Bridge Road on the basis that the mikvah "appeared to be a commercial spa which was not permitted in the residential zone", the homeowner declined to appeal to the Zoning Board and immediately filed a lawsuit against the Township in Superior Court.

Attorney Donna Jennings of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A.countered in the lawsuit that the Township's own zoning ordinances define "commercial" as something which is "made or done for sale or profit", which the homeowner was not proposing for his mikvah.

The lawsuit also noted that the mikvah should be permitted as an "accessory use" as the Township's zoning ordinances for this zoning district permit "other customary accessory uses, buildings and structures which are clearly incidental to the principal use and building", and in this case the mikvah will be incidental to the residential home as it will be built completely inside the dwelling and from the outside the structure will not appear any different from any other residential dwelling on the block.

Ms. Jennings charged in the complaint, "Defendant's actions were motivated by religious and racial animus. The failure to grant the application is part of a rising tide of anti-Semitism in the Township, a hostility toward Orthodox Jews shared by many both in the Township government and in its population and in its local population and local resident groups who are hostile to the movement of Orthodox Jews into the Township".

The lawsuit cited the numerous other anti-Semitism lawsuits which have been filed against Jackson Township, which shows that "Town officials have a practice of denying land use applications and permits submitted by Orthodox Jewish residents", and that this practice "disproportionately affects Orthodox Jewish residents". 

Due to this practice, and because this appeal of whether a mikvah is an accessory use to a residential home and whether it's protected under RLUIPA is based on a determination of law and not fact, the Plaintiff's feel it is futile to seek a review of the zoning officer's determination from the Zoning Board, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit didn't seek monetary damages, but rather for the Court to overturn the zoning officer's determination and remand the application back to the Township for an approval.

Either way, this lawsuit worked because super speedy quickly Jackson Township officials did an about faced and settled the matter accordingly!

Why have Jackson Township officials not yet learned their lesson from just a number of months ago? Are they sitting and waiting for yet another lawsuit?

To join a FAA WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA WhatsApp Status, click here.


Yonah Kleinberg said...

This is a lose-lose situation.

If this goes to court and Jackson Township loses, everyone will be able to turn his garage into a "shul" and then demand that his property should be tax exempt.

Anonymous said...

Whats wrong with that? Isn't that the purpose of this blog - to turn Jackson into Lakewood?

Yonah Kleinberg said...

Have you read anything on FAA News which would indicate that their purpose is "to turn Jackson into Lakewood"?

Anonymous said...

Thats what it seems. This blog is always complaining that Jackson is tough on Jewish zoning. Seriously, you guys want Jackson to become like Lakewood! Unbelievable.

Yonah Kleinberg said...

The latest article on this site proves just the opposite