Lakewood Township Zoning Board Chairman Abe Halberstam was absent from last week's Board meeting. That absence made a huge difference in at least one application.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in September, after Traffic Expert Scott Kennel confidently assured the Board that "not everyone leaves home during the same hour, so not all traffic on Chestnut Street is during the same hour", the Board granted Appeal #4229 from SGS Development Project, LLC, for approval to construct both duplexes and undersized single family homes, for a total of 10 units plus basement apartments, on Clinton Avenue off Chestnut Street where only single family homes are permitted.

The approval includes 4 single family homes on Chestnut Street on lots of 10,000 sq feet each. The zone permits only single family homes on 20,000 sq feet each.

During the hearing, Mr. Kennel discussed traffic along Chestnut Street and represented that Ocean County has been hard at work planning major improvements to the Chestnut Street and New Hampshire Avenue intersection, including redesigning the Route 70 westbound exit ramp to meet up at a new, traffic signalized T intersection with Chestnut Street, and installing a new traffic signal at the adjacent intersection of Chestnut Street and New Hampshire Avenue, and that County officials anticipate commencing road work on this massive project in 2023.

Board members entertained conditioning their approval of this application in that the developers may only obtain building permits once Ocean County actually commences road work on their intersection improvements project.

Chairman Halberstam, however, adamantly refused to delay construction of the new homes for that long. He explained that "Mr. Kennel already testified, the county anticipates commencing construction next year, and this development likely will not get built before the county commences road work anyways".

This is quite a perplexing calculation, as, if he believes that the homes will anyways not get built before the county commences road work, what's the problem with adding a layer of assurance to that belief by conditioning the approval on waiting until the county commences road work?

Either way, Mr. Halberstam's absence from this week's meeting caused a major change in the Board's approval of this application.

After the Board approves or denies an application, their Attorney Jerry Dasti drafts a resolution which commits to text the wording of the Board's approval or denial of an application, and the Board adopts that Resolution typically at the meeting.

Mr. Dasti presented his draft Resolution of this application at this past week's meeting.

Erroneously, his draft of the Resolution conditioned the approval to not permitting the developers to obtain any building permits on the undersized single family homes which front on Chestnut Street until Ocean County actually commences road work on their intersection improvements project.

Attorney Miriam Weinstein, representing the developers brought to the Board's attention that, although the Board did entertain such a condition during the hearing, this condition was actually not included in the ultimate vote, and therefore the Resolution should be amended to reflect the actual approval.

At this point, Mr. Kennel updated the Board that Ocean County's long awaited project had been held up until now due to prerequisite State permits, which have been finalized and therefore, construction is getting closer is now anticipated to begin this coming Spring, and construction should take "10-12 months". (Approximately June 2024)

Board members asked how long it will take until this development gets built. Mrs. Weinstein responded "our project will take 18 months." (Approximately April 2024)

Acting Chairman Meir Gelley stated that while this condition wasn't expressly stated during the actual vote, "it was the spirit of their vote". He asked, if the County is really anticipating commencing road work next Spring and this development will anyways take longer to get built, "what's the issue, why can't we include this condition?" [What a brilliant question?! This is the question that Mr. Halberstam did not ask during the original hearing.]

Board Member Moish Lankry agreed, saying "let's keep things as the status quo".

Board Member Moshe Gleiberman offered a compromise that the developers can obtain building permits right away, but they can not obtain Certificate of Occupancies until the County's traffic signal project is complete.

Mrs. Weinstein then begged that the Board only require withholding the Certificate of Occupancy until the County's traffic signal project is "substantially complete".

Board members then weighed in heavily as to what the parameters of "substantially complete" were, noting that it's possible for the traffic signal to be technically installed but blinking yellow "for 2 years". Mrs. Weinstein agreed that it would mean that the light is "fully up, operational, and functioning red, yellow, green".

Aron Hirsch, a Chestnut Street resident attempted to speak on the matter prior to the Board voting. The Board did not permit him to speak.

The Board then voted to amend the Resolution of Approval to say that the developer will not be permitted to obtain Certificate of Occupancies on any of the undersized single family homes which front on Chestnut Street until the County's traffic signal project is "substantially complete", meaning that the the light is "fully up, operational, and functioning red, yellow, green".

Had Mr. Halberstam been present at this week's meeting, this matter would most likely have ended up with no such condition.

As previously reported here, this traffic signal project is currently being delayed by the refusal of an adjoining property owner to sign off on the County's appraisal of the acquisition of the right-of-way necessary to do the road work.

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