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The Jackson Township Planning Board is set this Tuesday to hear Bais Yaakov of Jackson's application for a 4-building school campus on East Veterans Highway.

Bais Yaakov of Jackson is owned by Mr. Aaron Rottenberg who previously informed the neighbors that the school will not be a "new school for Jackson children," but rather that the existing Lakewood children will move to the new location in Jackson.

Neighbors asked if he can guarantee that their children will be able to get into the new school in exchange for them not opposing construction of the school in their neighborhood. Mr. Rottenberg immediately said "no way - you're not welcome in this school."

The hearing will take place Tuesday, 7:30pm, at Town Hall, 95 West Veterans Highway.

The hearing is open to the public. Comments, including statements, will be permitted only at the end of the presentation of the entire application. However, members of the public will also be provided opportunities for questions. After each of the applicant's professionals finish their testimony on the application, opposing attorneys will be given an opportunity for cross-examination. Additionally, members of the public who are not represented by an attorney will have their own opportunity to cross-examine each of the professionals regarding their testimony. This is the opportunity for everyone to ask as many questions as necessary. Members of the public who are not attorneys may ask the professionals on anything that relates to the application. 

The Site Plan depicts an elementary school building that can contain 1,350 students, two high school buildings that can contain 500 students in each, and an additional 9,800 sq feet gymnasium building.

The architectural floor plans indicate that each school building will contain two stories and no basements. Curiously, there doesn't seem to be any main dining area, rather each floor contains a smaller "multi-purpose room." These "multi-purpose rooms" have separate staircases, entryways, and lobbies, leading neighbors to wonder if the real plan is to turn these rooms into rentable banquet halls.

The use is being presented as conforming, however the application does seek several bulk variances and design waivers which will require Board approval, and which the neighbors will be able to rely on to oppose or support the application during the public comment portion. (Even members of the public who asked questions during the cross examination portion may also make comments and statements during the public portion.)

• The parking lot, which will be accessed by two driveways on East Veterans Highway, a heavily traveled roadway with insufficient sidewalks and shoulders.

• The parking lot will contain a bus lane which will be able to fit 8 buses in front of two of the school buildings and 9 buses in front of one of the school buildings. The lot will also "technically contain" 503 parking spaces as required, however, 136 of these spaces are indicated to be "land banked / recreational area" which means that they are proposed to be used mainly for a recreational area and not actual parking. This arrangement will require variance approval from the Board.

• The application seeks a Variance for Minimum Lot Width of 130 feet where 200 feet is required. Building #2 also seeks a height variance for a 36 feet high building where the maximum height is 35 feet high.

• The application also seeks design waivers from providing the required designated truck loading areas, as well as for providing 10 feet soil borings where 15 feet soil borings are required.

• The school also proposes to operate on septic, which is not typical for school development in Jackson - especially for schools of this size.

The school has submitted the following Statement of Operations:

As shown in the pictures below, the Township's Traffic Safety Bureau reviewed the application and forwarded to the Planning Board their road safety and congestion concerns:

• It is possible that there may be numerous rentable banquet halls in these schools as the "multi-purpose rooms" on each floor have separate entrances and lobbies. It is also possible that the 9,800 sq gymnasium building could be turned into a rentable banquet hall, especially as it is ironic that there is one "separate gymnasium building" for 3 schools, instead of each school having its own gym or no gym for any of the schools.

It's also ironic that the gym building has its own dedicated parking lot (which may indeed start off as a "land banked / recreational area" but then may be converted into a parking area.

• This applicant has a history of building banquet halls in schools without disclosing this use to the Lakewood Planning Board.

When the Lakewood Cheder presented their Site Plan and architectural plans to the Lakewood Township Planning Board, they depicted "open recreational space" which was then turned into two banquet halls. Lakewood Township never granted any Certificate of Occupancy for these banquet halls.

Additionally, when Beis Faiga's Gratter Building expansion presented their Site Plan and architectural plans to the Lakewood Township Planning Board, they depicted an "auditorium." Mr. Rottenberg solemnly affirmed "there will not be any banquet hall." Lakewood Township also never granted any Certificate of Occupancy for this banquet hall.

• To address concerns over possible banquet halls, the neighbors may request that the Board condition any approval upon a deed restriction that the entire property is to be used for educational purposes only. This will grant the neighbors their legal rights in case the property is in the future used for other purposes.

Bais Yaakov of Jackson's application is being represented by Attorney Donna Jennings of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A.

Ms. Jennings has successfully handled litigation related to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) on behalf of individuals and institutions who were discriminated against by unfair zoning codes and landmarking laws.

She famously represented Agudath Israel in their lawsuit against Jackson Township in which she successfully secured a Preliminary Injunction which overturned the Township's ban against private schools, which ultimately is what permits this application to be presented as a conforming use.

East Veterans Highway is a narrow, 2 lane collector roadway with barely no shoulders and not many traffic signals to help break traffic. The parallel collector roadway, Butterfly Road looks very much the same. The neighbors have concerns regarding traffic congestion as well as privacy.

As the news was first broken here on FAA News, prior to retaining an attorney to oppose the Planning Board application, the neighbors held a meeting in a local shul with Mr. Aron Rottenberg, a representative of the school.

Mr. Rottenberg indicated that this site is proposed only for 3 girls schools, and that they are under contract to buy an additional 12 acre site for their boys school.

Neighbors immediately offered to buy out the land. Mr. Rottenberg vehemently rejected the offer, but did say that he would be willing to do a land swap with Jackson Township if they offer him a comparable parcel of land elsewhere closer to Lakewood.

The neighbors tried to impress upon Mr. Rottenberg how much such big schools will impose on their privacy and they asked him to commit to planting proper trees and installing high fences. Mr. Rottenberg responded, "I won't agree here to do anything. You're welcome to fight me at the Township boards."

In response, the neighbors have now retained Brick Township Attorney Joseph Michelini Esq. of O'Malley, Surman, and Michelini to represent their opposition to the application.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Mr. Michelini represented Ridge Avenue residents opposed to Yeshiva Ruach Hatorah's application for a total of 30 houses on a cul-de-sac bulb road. After negotiating with the developer, the application was successfully tabled until further notice.

As also reported here on FAA News, Mr. Michelini represented Newport Avenue residents opposed to a possible banquet hall in a proposed child care center application. Mr. Michelini successfully negotiated a Consent Order with the developers who agreed not to build a banquet hall.

As also reported here on FAA News, Mr. Michelini represented the Harrogate development regarding Covington Village's application.

Beis Yaakov of Jackson recently received Ocean County Planning Board approval. Their DEP application remains pending.

The proposed school site is currently 3 separate lots, totalling 37.9 acres. According to public records obtained by FAA News, Bais Yaakov of Jackson already closed last year on a $3,950,000 purchase on 2 of the lots at 245 East Veterans Highway; the remaining lot at 279 East Veterans Highway is currently owned by Chaim Grunwald.

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