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Lakewood Township's Planning Board previously conditioned their approval on a block of residential homes on that the developer would be required to construct a shul. To ascertain that the shul would get built, the Board further conditioned their approval on that the developer could not obtain Certificate of Occupancies until the shul is constructed.

Typically, in order to get released from a specific condition of a Board approval, the developer would be required to submit an Application to the Board which would typically require the developer to publish legal notices to the neighbors.

In this case however, the Township Engineering Department turned a blind eye and gave the go-ahead for the developer to receive Temporary Certificate of Occupancies to permit the home buyers to close on their new homes even without constructing the shul, as required under the Planning Board approval.

There are 3 residential subdivisions located along Route 9 between Hearthstone (Finchley Blvd) and Elmwood Village (Elmhurst Blvd).

The northernmost is Chevy Lane, which was approved by the Lakewood Planning Board as Application SD 1356 and subsequently revised under Application SD 1356B.

In the center is Basswood Drive, which was approved by the Lakewood Planning Board as SD 2007.

The third subdivision is on the northern side of Elmhurst Blvd, which was approved by the Lakewood Planning Board as SD 2008.

These final 2 subdivisions, together, compromise of what's now known as The Maplewoods. At one point this was going to be part of the brand of Satmar (R' Zalman Leib) developments which are nearby off Cross Street.

Application SD 1356 was presented to the Planning Board on January 15 and February 19, 2002.

The application was filed by W.P. Developers and it was represented by Attorney Raymond Shea Esq and Charles Boyles, PE. 

The application was for 43 single family townhomes with no basements at all, and a playground, to be built along Chevy Lane.

A total of 103 parking spaces were proposed, most of which would be in front of the proposed townhomes and some would be in a communal parking area which would owned and maintained by a Homeowners Association. On street parking was to be prohibited due to the narrowness of the width of the road.

Upon review of the plans, the Board conditioned the approval on that the applicant should upgrade the playground equipment; widen the southbound shoulder on Route 9 to 11 feet wide to permit safe ingress and egress to the site; lengthen the left hand turning lane onto Route 9 to at least 100 feet to allow for additional stacking of vehicles; install a board-on-board fence along the northerly and southerly property lines so as to provide additional buffering to the neighboring properties; provide a concrete patio to the rear of each townhomes; provide a 6 foot high privacy fence in between each townhome; and provide enclosures for each of the trash areas.

Additionally, the Board directed the applicant to install no parking signage along the roadway, and that sheds will not be permitted due to small lot area. The Board further directed the applicant to provide a copy of the Board's Resolution of Approval to each of the prospective purchasers so as to provide them with notice of the conditions of this approval.

Subsequently, on August 21 and September 18, 2007, C Hook LLC (which was owned by Marshall Weissman) presented to the Planning Board a revised plan for this development. This application was presented under Application SD 1356B.

The revised application was for 7 multiple unit townhouse buildings totalling 41 units, with 3 bedrooms and basements.

They noted that based on the New Jersey RSIS requirement of 2.4 parking spaces per unit, their application requires 98 parking spaces and they are proposing 114, of which there will be 2 spaces in front of each house, and an additional 32 across 3 communal parking lots in the middle of the development.

On August 21 this revised application was represented by Attorney Raymond Shea Esq and Charles Boyles, PE.

They requested a waiver from providing sidewalk along the Route 9 frontage. They noted that their playground meets the required 5% open space ordinance. They did not propose a shul because, "the applicant contends there are sufficient community facilities available."

This application provided a cul-de-sac that technically complies with RSIS standards but does not provide the 55 foot bulb school buses require for a turn-around. Therefore, the applicant agreed to provide a bus shelter on Route 9 so the kids would have a place to wait for their bus.

The Board expressed concern that there was insufficient parking for the basement to be used as separate rental apartments, and that school buses would not fit on this narrow road.

In response, the applicant's professionals requested to carry the application so they could revise the plans to address the Board's concerns.

At the following meeting, the applicant returned with revised plans, and replaced Mr. Boyles with Brian Flannery.

Mr. Flannery presented revised plan that reduced the units by 1 in order to increase the diameter of the cul-de-sac bulb to 55 feet to be able to accommodate bus travel.

In response to the Board's concerns over insufficient parking for separate rental apartments in the basements, Mr. Flannery agreed that the basements would be "for storage space only."

Mr. Flannery further agreed to eliminate the Route 9 frontage sidewalk waiver.

Basswood Drive was presented on June 9, 2015 to the Lakewood Planning Board as SD 2007. The application was submitted by Times Square Holdings LLC (which is owned by Sharon Dachs).

This application, which was presented by Adam Pfeffer Esq and Brian Flannery, PE, was for 26 duplex units along the new cul-de-sac bulb road. Each unit would contain 4 off-street parking spaces.

Curb and sidewalk was proposed. A waiver was requested from paving Biltmore Avenue.

No shul or playground was provided with this application.

Subsequently, due to environmental constraints, the NJDEP required the number of units to be reduced to 18. The Lakewood Planning Board approved the reduced plan in April 2018.

The northern side of Elmhurst Blvd was presented to the Planning Board as SD 2008.

The application was submitted by Berkshire Investments Holdings (which is also owned by Sharon Dachs) and it was represented by Adam Pfeffer Esq and Brian Flannery, PE.

This application was originally for 20 duplex units and a storm water management basin at the end of Elmhurst Blvd (near Tova Drive). 4-off street parking spaces would be provided for each unit along Elmhurst Blvd which was already paved for the adjacent Elmwood Village development.

This application was also proposed with no shul and no playground.

At this point, taking note of all the other homes which would be built next door, the Board declared it was high time for a shul, and conditioned the approval that one unit needed to be used for a shul, and that the applicant should provide "as much parking as possible for the shul." To ensure that the shul actually gets built, the Board restricted the applicant from receiving Certificate of Occupancies on any of these residential homes until the Shul is constructed.

The Board also required the applicant to widen the pavement along Elmhurst Blvd to 32 feet.

Subsequently, due to environmental constraints, the NJDEP required the development to be reduced to 13 duplex units.

Site clearing on the Elmhurst Blvd homes began back in January 2019. Installation of utilities and construction of the homes then got dragged out over several years.

Construction is complete and the developer just recently closed on 5 of the homes, despite that construction on the shul has not even begun yet!

Huh? Isn't there a Planning Board condition of approval which requires construction of a shul prior to any Certificate of Occupancy being granted?

Did the developer submit an application to the Planning Board seeking to waive this condition, and provide notice to the neighbors of such an application?

The answer is... No. Rather, the Township Engineering Department simply turned a blind eye and gave the go-ahead for the developer to obtain Temporary Certificate of Occupancies on the homes and this enabled the developer to close on these homes!

By granting these Temporary Certificate of Occupancies, the sales of the homes have been able to be closed and the Township has no more holding over the developer to ensure that the shul will indeed be constructed.

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Anonymous said...

The corruption likely runs deeper.

Someone obviously directed the Engineering Department to do the dirty work...

Anonymous said...

And this is just one more example of why people never trust the word of the developers and/or their hired professionals (like Brian Flannery, Adam Pfeffer, Josh Schmucker, and Abe Auerbach) when they promise to take of the details during the infamous “resolution compliance” phase – when the public is shut out of the process.

Anonymous said...

Time to send some subpoenas!

Anonymous said...

This is C R A Z Y stuff!

It is totally illegal for the construction official to issue any kind of CO until after all the conditions enumerated in the Board’s Resolution are satisfied. This would never happen in another town. This official should immediately be retired. No wonder the residents are forced to suffer with insufficient infrastructure necessary for our community, which includes shuls.

It's just unbelievable that even after residents voice their concerns, and land use board members try to get things right, our hired professionals play shenanigans when they think that nobody is paying attention.

From what I'm hearing, this official has got quite a history of not doing his job when it comes to certain applications and issuing "at-risk" permits against the rules - even after being sternly admonished by county planning board officials. For some reason, these developers have more influence over him than that of his duty to play by the rules.

He apparently believes that the committeemen which hired him don't care - so why should he.

Resident said...

Kudos to FAA News for shedding light on the dark areas of our local government. You are the township hero!

Please keep up the great reporting.

Reuven K said...

FAA should just mind its own business and stop meddling in other people's affairs. Things are always best when kept quiet.

The system is working just fine for us and there's no reason to fix it.