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At Lakewood Township Committee's last meeting they 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.

Attorney Rob Shea, representing 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. He also noted that he had sent a comprehensive letter outlying his objections to the adoption of the ordinance.

FAA News has now obtained the full letter.

The letter begins with a procedural objection to the  Township Committee holding their meeting virtually despite the fact that New Jersey's Public Health Emergency has already ended.

The letter then discusses 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 which "would benefit them or their family members."

The letter then asserts, at length, that the Ordinance is inconsistent with the Master Plan. The letter includes as an exhibit, a comprehensive report drafted by Engineer Gordon Gemma (which can be seen here on FAA News), showing line by line that the ordinance is not in accordance with the Township's 2017 Master Plan.

The letter then asserts that, as first reported here on FAA News, 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.

The letter also asserts that the changes between first and second reading were significant enough to require the ordinance to be re-introduced on first reading before a second reading, with which the Township failed to comply.

The letter then continues with substantive objections to the Ordinance, asserting that "the proposed ordinance will create havoc to the Industrial Park."

The letter addressed the wording "shall continue to be allowed as accessory uses in the school buildings", and asserted this appears to mean that this ordinance will retroactively legalize existing banquet halls in schools in these zones.

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."

At the Committee meeting, just as he got to the fun part of discussing the possible conflicts of interest, 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.

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. Mr. Shea is expected to file a lawsuit, including for a Stay on the matter, in the coming weeks.

Read Mr. Shea's letter in full:

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