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Does the Jackson Township Zoning Board play by different sets of rules depending on the religion of the applicant?

Pursuant to the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law, planning and zoning boards may only grant variances when the applicant's provide certain planning testimony.

For example, Planning Boards may grant lot area variances in cases of hardships, or when the applicant testifies that "the purposes of zoning would be advanced by a deviation from the zoning ordinance requirements and the benefits of the deviation would substantially outweigh any detriment."

Zoning Boards may only grant use variances "in particular cases for special reasons," and "with a showing that such variance or other relief can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and will not substantially impair the intent and the purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance."

Typically, developers hire Professional Planners and Engineers to satisfactorily provide the criteria of the planning testimony required for the granting of the variance they are seeking.

In Jackson Township, numerous homeowners who seek permits for "small things" such as fences a few feet above the height limit are enlightened to learn that permission for such a fence requires a height variance from the Zoning Board. Assuming that all this entails is "making the request and getting the approval," they appear before the Board with no Professional Planner.

At a recent Zoning Board meeting, Savvas & Crystalla Kyriacou presented their application for an expansion of their existing residential home. As it is an existing residence which happens to be located in a commercial zone, the expansion requires a D-2 Use Variance.

Mr. Kyriacou appeared on his own with no Professional Planner. When it got to the point in the presentation of the application for the planning testimony, Board members quietly turned to their own engineer and asked him to help them satisfy the planning criteria, which he did. The Board then simply voted to approve the application.

Just 2 weeks prior, when Meshullam and Toba Teiler appeared on their own and presented a pretty similar application to the Board, the rules played out very differently.

The Teiler's had previously planned on installing a 6 foot high privacy fence in their yard. Zoning ordinances permit 6 foot high fences and require only a permit from the Zoning Officer.

At time of installation, they realized that their neighbors had begun installing big windows which would effectively render a 6 foot high fence useless as the windows were higher 6 feet.

Instead they changed course and sought a permit for an 8 foot high fence. The Zoning Officer denied the request as that required a height variance from the Zoning Board.

They presented their application to the Board with no assistance from a Professional Planner.

Board members pressed them on why they need such a high fence when they could make do with planting trees which do not require any variance. The Teiler's attempted to explain that trees would be more costly and high maintenance and they would not look as aesthetically pleasing.

Board members pushed back, saying that they "simply don't see any hardship when there is a variance-free option readily available." Board members additionally opined that the requested fence (which was anyway only being sought for the length of the neighbors windows) would "completely alter the character of the neighborhood."

At that point, Board members told the Teiler's that their application requires Planning testimony. They offered them to either table the application until they can bring an attorney or planner, or take a chance on their own and go ahead for a vote. Ultimately the Teiler's took the chance on their own and the Board denied the application.

At no time did any Board member ask their engineer if he could assist with the Planning testimony as they did for Mr. Kyriacou.

Hm... Does the Jackson Township Zoning Board of Adjustment have a different set of rules based on religion of the applicant?

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Sarah Sofer said...

Yes. The answer is yes.
The Township of Jackson is sick and needs serious overhaul.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how you could possibly compare the two cases. "simply don't see any hardship when there is a variance-free option readily available" seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable option. True it might cost a little more but it is definitely more aesthetically pleasing and a better planning option than a higher fence which is ugly and sets bad precedent. Not everything is anti semitic and we have to stop seeing anti semites everywhere when they might not even be there.