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Residents of the Royal Grove neighborhood in Jackson have retained Brick Township Attorney Joseph Michelini Esq. of O'Malley, Surman, and Michelini to represent their opposition to Bais Yaakov of Jackson's Planning Board application for a 4-building school campus on East Veterans Highway.

Jackson Township's Planning Board is scheduled to consider the application this coming Tuesday, February 21.

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 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."

The parking lot, which will be accessed by two driveways on East Veterans Highway, 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.

Building #2 also requires Minimum Lot Width of 130 feet where 200 feet is required, and 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 may require approval from the Jackson Township Municipal Utilities Authority.

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:

Pursuant to the Consent Order that the Township signed with Oros Beis Yaakov, the Township has acknowledged that private schools, including these proposed schools, do not require State accreditation, therefore the Board will not be able to use this excuse to deny this application.

Is it possible that the 9,800 sq gymnasium building could be turned into a rentable banquet hall?

It's 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.

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" which they solemnly affirmed "will not be rented out." Lakewood Township also never granted any Certificate of Occupancy for this banquet hall.

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 school. 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 Mr. Michelini to oppose the Planning Board 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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Anonymous said...

Chutzpa. Unless they agree not to send their kids into Lakewood for schools, they can not oppose schools being built in Jackson. Why should we be burdened with the cost and traffic?!

Chananya Kaufman said...

Ms. Wilentz represented Agudath Israel in obtaining the very Injunction which permits schools to be built everywhere in Jackson.

This is the injunction which the Royal Grove residents now need to use their own money to protect themselves from this school application.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 2:29 PM

The neighbors asked Mr. Rottenberg to assure then that their kids will be accepted to this school. He responded saying, "no way. This school will be for our current Lakewood residents, not for the new community in Jackson."

Also, no one is blanket opposed to schools, rather they want them placed in proper areas. Just last night numerous Jackson residents spoke up at the Council meeting and suggested creating a school zone in a "serviceable area" which has wider roads and sewer and water.

Anonymous said...

The Jackson Planning Board is about to learn that there is a major difference between "developers / Agudah" and just "regular plain Jews" who don't actually love the idea of having big schools and all their traffic congestion in their backyards.

Anonymous said...

I find that Mr. Rottenberg is generally heavy handed. The schools would be better served having people who are more willing to compromise at these meetings.