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Lakewood's Township Committee today adopted on final reading their banquet hall ordinance.

The final version of the ordinance reads as follows:

In all non-residential zones where schools are permitted uses (Section 18-903) and the Oak Street Core Neighborhood Overlay Zone-1 (Section 18-902M), catering facilities and banquet halls shall continue to be allowed as accessory uses in the school buildings, provided the following parking requirements are met:

For the section of the school utilized for catering and banquet functions (to be known as the Banquet Hall space, but not including bathrooms, food prep rooms, and facilities not associated with the Banquet Hall function, such as guest preparation rooms, etc.) 1.0 parking space shall be required for every 50 square feet thereof.

During the Planning Board's review of the ordinance, Board members discussed prohibiting on-street parking in front of schools with banquet halls and requiring schools to hire traffic guards to enforce this restriction.

Mayor Ray Coles addressed these items today and noted that he felt it wasn't appropriate for the Committee to include these requirements in the ordinance as a blanket rule for all schools, however, these items remain the purview of the Planning Board to require on site plans as they feel is appropriate.

Mayor Coles also stated that he felt that the Planning Board did make a determination that this ordinance is consistent with the Master Plan, subject to their recommended changes. (Despite the fact that board members did not actually dwell on this issue and say so expressly.

Members of the public noted that the wording of the Ordinance simply says "in all non-residential zones", and asked if this includes the Township's B, HD, and LP zoning districts which are officially commercial zones but do permit certain residential used. Mayor Coles responded that yes, schools in these zones will also be permitted to have a banquet hall as an accessory use.

Attorney Rob Shea, who represented an industrial park owner who is currently suing Lake Terrace and Bnos Brocha over the current illegality of their simcha halls, addressed the Committee, placing on the record that he is objecting to the adoption of this ordinance and that he will definitely attempt to void the ordinance in Court.

Mr. Shea addressed the wording "shall continue to be allowed as accessory uses in the school buildings", and asserted it means that this ordinance will retroactively legalize existing banquet halls in schools in these zones. Mayor Coles appeared to dodge this issue and didn't express clearly whether or not this ordinance will go retroactive.

Mr. Shea noted that he had sent a "comprehensive letter outlying our objections to the adoption of the ordinance".

Mr. Shea specifically pointed out that while the Township Committee asserted that they were relying on a written report they received from the Planning Board listing their recommendations on the ordinance, the Township Clerk has advised him that no OPRA'ble report actually exists. "As you are relying on it, we should be able to see it," he argued.

Mr. Shea also took issue with the wording "etc." in the ordinance, arguing that such terminology is "ambiguous and trying to define this ordinance is impossible."

Mr. Shea then got to the fun part of discussing possible conflicts of interest that Committee members may have with schools with banquet halls, which would legally require them to recuse themselves from voting on the ordinance. Just his luck, he reached the end of the 4 minute timer and Township Manager Patrick Donnelly vehemently stopped him from continuing to speak. Township Attorney Steven Secare did acknowledge that his previously submitted letter will be entered into the record.

Engineer Gordon Gemma who is representing the same property owner also opposed adoption of the Ordinance, arguing, as first reported here on FAA News that making banquet halls permitted as an accessory use constitutes a "significant change in classification" which requires personal notice to all property owners, with which the Township failed to comply.

Mr. Gemma also argued, as previously reported more comprehensively here on FAA News, that the ordinance is not in accordance with the Township's 2017 Master Plan.

Specifically, Mr. Gemma cited the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law (NJSA 40:55D-62(a) which provides:

The zoning ordinance shall be drawn with reasonable consideration to the character of each district and its peculiar suitability for particular uses and to encourage the most appropriate use of land...

Noting that banquet halls will be equally permitted in numerous zones without any additional setbacks and buffers stands in contrast to the vision of the MLUL, Mr. Gemma asserted.

Mr. Gemma specifically noted that by permitting banquet halls in already built schools with no additional exterior site plan requirements, the Planning Board will not have leeway to ensure adequate provisions for adequate trash enclosures and truck loading areas.

Mr. Gemma noted that the Master Plan recommends to "minimize land use conflicts" and to "preserve and protect existing viable residential neighborhoods", and to "discourage deviations from established land use patterns that would permit incompatibility and/or conflicting land uses being developed adjacent to one another".

"The specific language of the Master Plan is clear. Further, there is no overriding goal and objective which could reasonably be used to justify allowing banquet facilities in residential zones", added Mr. Gemma.

"If you do approve the ordinance, you should expressly require additional buffers and setbacks. This ordinance does not fit the purposes of zoning. You have standards, and you should consider them," he concluded.

The Committee received a handful of public comment emails from members of the public, all of which were opposed to permitting banquet halls in schools.

Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein offered the motion to approve, Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller offered the second.

Mayor Coles, Deputy Mayor Miller, and Committeemen Lichtenstein voted in support of the ordinance.

Stating that he has a conflict as his daughters attend Bnos Brocha which will gain from adoption of this ordinance, Committeeman Albert Akerman abstained on voting.

Committeeman Mike D'Elia was absent from the meeting.

Lawsuits over ordinances are required to be filed in Superior Court within 45 days. This matter is likely to get dragged out in court over the coming months.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So because of Akerman's conflict, was this a super-majority vote, or not? If not, then it needed to have been fully conforming to the Master Plan. Shea should ask for an injunction, and then the judge will decide all the fine points when it's brought to court... this story is not over. Not by a long shot.