Just after the Lakewood Planning Board voted to recommend permitting banquet halls as an accessory use in schools in non-residential zones only, Nachlas Bais Yaakov is already testing the waters.

Nachlas Bais Yaakov is scheduled this Tuesday to present their Site Plan application to the Planning Board.

According to the legal notice they mailed to the neighboring property owners, their application seeks "preliminary and final site plan approval to construct a school with a gymnasium and associated parking lot" on Newport Avenue.

No mention is made of any banquet hall.

A review of their Site Plan and building architectural plans reveal that the actual plan is to construct a three-story elementary school building with a basement, a one-story high school building, and an additional 6,000 sq feet gymnasium building.

The plans also depict (hidden right in plain view!) a banquet hall complete with a separate entrance, lobby, coatroom, separate restrooms in the elementary school, and a truck delivery area.

The proposed parking lot contains 179 off-street parking spaces.

The application seeks several variances.

The site is in the R-40 residential zoning district.

As the news was first broken here on FAA News, the Lakewood Township Committee has introduced an Ordinance to permit banquet halls as an accessory use in all schools where schools are permitted. However, as previously reported here on FAA News, the Planning Board just last week voted to endorse this proposed ordinance, however, with the recommendation that banquet halls not be permitted in schools in residential zones.

As Newport Avenue is in the R-40 residential zoning district, the Planning Board's recommendation last week was to not permit banquet halls as an accessory use in schools on that block.

When Nachlas Bais Yaakov presents their Site Plan to the Planning Board this Tuesday, what will the Planning Board tell them regarding the banquet hall??

Additionally, the Board was once "assured" by Abe Aurbach of Regency Developments that before the next school gets approved on this block, there would be an additional access way to get to Newport Avenue. Will the Board now insist on upholding that "assurance"?

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in March, this very site was proposed to be used for a large child care center.

The application, which was represented by Attorney Miriam Weinstein, was contentious with numerous neighbors presenting pedestrian, traffic safety and congestion concerns, especially as many parents would be driving down the narrow road for pick-up and drop-offs.

The application originally showed plans for an oversized "unfinished basement". Some neighbors retained Brick Attorney Joseph Michelini of the O’Malley, Surman & Michelini firm to represent them in opposing the application, especially due to concerns that there would be a banquet hall in the basement. Mr. Michelini successfully negotiated an agreement that there will not be a rentable banquet hall in the basement.

Board Member Moshe Raitsik echoed many of the same traffic flow concerns expressed by the neighbors. In response, Builder Abe Aurbach of Regency Development told the Board that "while this is out of our hands" there were "3 more schools coming to 'this area' and we are actively pursuing 'several ways' to get an additional entranceway to Newport Avenue."

At the conclusion of the hearing, Board Chairman Moshe Neiman assured the neighbors that although the Board was going to approve this child care center, "when the next school coming to this block wants to get approved, I'm not saying it will get approved, we may say that we need to first wait until the road has an additional entranceway".

Chairman Neiman also noted that schools will "work harder" to get an additional entranceway to Newport Avenue, saying "the message will get out there - because Mr. Aurbach is here now - that if you want to build a school here, let's work on opening Newport Avenue out to Jackson Township or Franklin Blvd."

Despite all of these "assurances", as previously reported here on FAA News, when Yeshiva Gedola of South Jersey subsequently presented their Site Plan application, the Board asked about the additional road. Attorney Adam Pfeffer responded simply "I was not the attorney on that other application. The only other access would be from Jackson and that township would never agree. Plus, this school is a permitted use."

Indeed, the child care center was represented by Attorney Miriam Weinstein, not Adam Pfeffer. However, the "assurance" was presented by Developer Abe Aurbach of Regency Development, and he should be held accountable for his words.

Curiously, Nachlas Bais Yaakov is also represented by Mr. Pfeffer.

Will the Planning Board now seek to uphold Mr. Aurbach's "assurance", or will they again turn a blind eye and let the school developers sneak by?

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