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Following a tense hearing tonight, Lakewood Township's Planning Board voted that they do not have legal jurisdiction to hear an application that would have added 500 cars to the Cross and James Street area traffic.

Application SD 2511, filed under the name Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah, (and fully owned by developer Sharon Dachs of Deerfield Holdings), sought 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.

As previously explained in this full background story on FAA News, this zoning district does not permit duplexes and therefore a typical application for duplexes would require Use Variance approval from the Zoning Board, not the Planning Board. However, the developer was attempting to rely on a loophole ordinance the Township Committee adopted in 2018 which states:

"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."

Back in March 2018, shortly before this ordinance was adopted, the developers of Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah filed Application SP 2291 to the Planning Board for an Educational Campus at this site.

This application was never actually presented to the Board at a public hearing, rather it was simply filed with the Board's administrative staff.

The developer is now relying on this Educational Campus application "filing" as the basis to now be eligible to re-apply for these 125 duplexes on 10,000 sq foot lots (which are permitted in the R7.5 zoning district).

As first reported here on FAA News, as soon as legal notice of this application was sent to the neighbors, they retained Jan Meyer, a frum and famous land use attorney from Teaneck, to represent them in opposing this application.

Mr. Meyer wrote to the Board "The Applicant bases this application on the fact that they previously file an application for a Planned Educational Campus, under SP2291. Of note, SP2291 has never been heard by the Board, let alone granted, as a result of the inaction of the Applicant.

"The idea that a developer can circumvent zoning laws, functionally rezoning an R-40 to  an R-7.5 simply by filing an application that is never acted or granted on is plainly improper and contrary to law and logic. Accordingly, this application, which seeks to develop an R-40 zone to an R-7.5 standard, requires a D variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Accordingly, the Planning Board does not have the authority or the jurisdiction to hear the above mentioned application."

As the news was recently broken here on FAA News, Mr. Meyer recently submitted a follow up letter to the Board advising them of a major corruption risk due to significant conflicts of interest between Chemdas Hatorah's attorney Adam Pfeffer and Board Member Justin Flancbaum.

Subsequently, the developers of Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah changed attorneys to John Doyle. Additionally, Mr. Flancbaum wisely did not attend tonight's Board meeting.

The Planning Board tonight took a deep delving into the 2018 Educational Campus application submission to determine whether or not it was indeed a "complete application... filed".

Board Attorney John Jackson noted that in August 2018 the Board Engineer provided a written review letter of the application and noted certain items which needed to be addressed before the application could be considered for a public hearing. Since that time, the applicant did not submit any follow up on the outstanding items.

In March 2020, Board Administrator Ally Morris wrote to the applicant:

"Your application has not yet been approved or denied by the Board... In the absence of activity on this application... the Board will schedule it to be dismissed without prejudice..."

Shortly afterwards, Attorney Adam Pfeffer responded:

"The applicant is addressing the design waivers and review comments. We anticipate providing additional submission documents in the near future."

Board members discussed the nuanced wording of the 2018 ordinance which states:

"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."

Board members ultimately determined that simply "dropping papers down on the desk" is not enough and you need to actually go forward with your application and comply with the Board Engineer's review letter in order for an application to be considered "complete application... filed", and because the developers of the 2018 Educational Campus developers did not submit additional documents as required by the Board Engineer, that application was deemed incomplete and therefore they are now not eligible for "re-approval for development of that tract.. in accordance with the provisions of the R-7.5 District."

Accordingly, the Board voted that they lacked jurisdiction to hear this application as duplexes are not a permitted use in this zone and they are only permitted in accordance with the 2018 ordinance.

The developers of Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah are likely to take their case to Court.

If the case does end up in court, the opposing neighbors of James Street and Prospect Street will likely intervene in the case as well.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks to the Township Committee's murky loophole ordinance, the neighbors needed to spend thousands of dollars to hire Jan Meyer to fight this application.

Instead of the Township Committee protecting us from developers, the Committee adopts ordinances with backroom deals and then we are forced to spend our own money to protect ourselves from them.

Let's be honest said...

Chalk up another point for the Planning Board tonight. They saw through the charade the applicant tried to get them confused with. There is not one planning board in any other city that would've allowed this application to go forward with a full hearing. This developer attempted to twist and manipulate the meaning of the regulation's words in a way that made no sense. You’d have to be krum like a pretzel to read things his way.

Anonymous said...

It's high time to vote for change in this town.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:27,

This is another example of how the committee-men just keep on voting for more gridlock almost each time they get together. And unless the residents hire expensive attorneys (on top of all the property taxes they're already paying) then this entire town will just become one big parking lot.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the Township Committee continues to meet remotely while the Planning Board meeting had a standing room only crowd should tell you everything you need to know about corruption and closed door shenanigans that go down in this town.

Anonymous said...

What stops the developer from completing the application now? Lakewood has no time limit on how long an application can stay dormant.

Anonymous said...

until the breakdown of citizens of Lakewood will be at least 50% or more not beholden or associated with BMG the same people will be voted in,these reps are their so long and get Tovas hanna= benefits, kick backs call it what you want perhaps BMG gets a donation for their puppets voting the correct way who knows but until reps are voted in that aren’t beholden or owe anyone or are owned by the powers that be we will never see equal or fair common sense votes from any board elected or appointed
My personal view is their needs to be term limits in order to keep everyone straight until that happens nothing wil change

Anonymous said...

Because the applicant never owned the property. I can't change the status of anotger's property just by filing a form if it ain't mine.

Anonymous said...

It's not the breakdown of citizens... It's a matter of turning out to vote.

Anonymous said...

Term limits? If anything, it makes it worse. There is no long term accountability.