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Despite Judge Ford's ruling that the Lakewood Planning Board lacks jurisdiction to approve dormitories in residential zones, at the urging of Board Attorney John Jackson, the Board tonight agreed to approve a dormitory.

Migdal Bais Yaakov, located at 541 Joe Parker Road, is a girls seminary which last year received Planning Board approval to change the use of a residential dwelling into their school for 25 students.

Migdal recently applied to the Planning Board for Major Site Plan approval to construct 2 school buildings.

Application SP 2499 is for construction of an approximately 16,572 sq foot elementary school building for 675 students, with a gymnasium and pool. The Board approved this application in January.

Application SP 2498 is for construction of an approximately 27,263 sq foot, 2-story building plus a finished basement for a seminary with a dormitory for 200 students, and a gymnasium, and pool.

As was first reported here on FAA News, as this application was scheduled to be presented to the Board just after Judge Ford's ruling that dormitories are not an accessory use in schools, neighbors of Migdal Bais Yaakov retained an attorney to oppose the application due to its inclusion of a dormitory.

Subsequently, as was previously reported here on FAA News, the Board held off from hearing this dormitory application saying that they wanted to first see Judge Ford's written ruling.

Following this pushback, as the news was first broken here on FAA News on January 31, Yeshiva Toras Chaim filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Judge Ford's ruling. The court hearing was scheduled for Friday, February 17.

As was reported here on FAA News on February 3, despite the Board's pushback against hearing Migdal's dormitory application, the Board attorney pushed in a different direction by concurring with Yeshiva Toras Chaim's Motion to permit the Planning Board to continue to approve dormitories everywhere.

Subsequently, at the last public hearing on February 7th, as was reported here on FAA News, despite Board Attorney John Jackson opining that the Board is not bound by Judge Ford's ruling and that they could hear a dormitory application, the Board again pushed back against hearing Migdal's dormitory application saying that they wanted to wait until after the outcome of Yeshiva Toras Chaim's pending Motion for Reconsideration. At the time, being that the hearing on the motion was scheduled for last Friday, February 17, the Board adjourned Migdal's application until tonight, February 21.

However, as was reported here on FAA News on February 13, the court hearing on Yeshiva Toras Chaim's Motion was adjourned until Friday, March 3, therefore Migdal's application landed on tonight's meeting agenda despite the fact that Yeshiva Toras Chaim's motion remains pending.

Tonight, numerous Board members again opined that as Judge Ford did rule that dormitories are not an accessory use, and that there is a Motion for Reconsideration which remains pending in court, they felt uncomfortable approving a dormitory now.

Some Board members suggested that they approve only the school use tonight, with the condition that the dormitory rooms will not be constructed until they receive a Use Variance from the Zoning Board.

Some Board members also suggested that they send the matter to the Township's Zoning Officer for a determination if dormitories are an accessory use.

Instead of supporting the Board's will, Board Attorney John Jackson strongly encouraged the Board to approve the dormitory tonight, saying that Judge Ford's ruling is "anyways not binding on the Board's future applications."

A neighbor spoke up, pointing out that approving just a school and not the dormitory will actually be way worse as they will have a school that has no bus lane and all the students will need to be dropped off as they will not be permitted to sleep on site.

At the end of the matter, the Board did a compromise where they approved the dormitory as it was presented, with a stipulation that if Yeshiva Toras Chaim's pending Motion for Reconsideration is denied then Migdal Bais Yaakov will be required to seek Use Variance relief from the Zoning Board.

Curb and sidewalk do not exist along the street frontage but are proposed with this application. Utilities besides for sanitary sewer already exist
beneath Joe Parker Road.

According to the revised site plans, a footprint of approximately 28,000 sq foot is proposed for the school building. The proposed gymnasium will have a footprint of 8,000 sq feet, and an area of 3,200 sq feet is designated for the pool. According to the preliminary architectural floor plans submitted, the proposed school building will contain a mixture of classrooms, tutor rooms, libraries, meeting rooms, offices, and 50 bedrooms.

A parking area with 27 off-street spaces, including 2 ADA van accessible spots is planned for the project. Access to the site is proposed from two, 24 feet wide driveways along Joe Parker Road. The western access driveway will be two-way, while the eastern access driveway is designed as ingress only. As the school does not propose any school buses, there is no circular bus lane.

Site lighting is proposed consisting of pole and building mounted fixtures for the parking area. Some landscaping is proposed.

The Board approved a maximum building height variance for 38 feet 6 inches whereas the maximum allowable is 35 feet high.

All board members ultimately approved the application, besides for Board Chairman Moshe Neiman who abstained from voting and Board Members David Helmreich and Moshe Raitzik who voted to deny the application.

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Anonymous said...

Planning Board member Moshe Raitzik also voted no on the application. If Chairman Neiman would have voted no, the resulting tie vote would have rejected the motion.

Anonymous said...

The conduct of the planning board attorney, John Jackson, at tonight's meeting was very disappointing. Either he willfully manipulated the effect of Judge Ford's sound decision, or he lacked the ability to comprehend its impact. Either way, our Planning Board deserves better. It's already past the time for him to move on.

Joe Parker said...

John Jackson overstepped his position during the meeting and actively pressed the Board members to ignore an official court ruling which specifically interpreted the township code as requiring dormitory applications to be heard at the zoning board (except for a dormitory in a campus zone) and not at planning.

There was something very fishy about his behavior tonight and some of the misrepresentations he made to the board members. It seemed that he received some behind the scenes directive to do whatever he could to push this application through, including providing highly questionable and/or improper legal advice to the board. He was also quite clear in expressing his contempt of the Judge's Order.

We need to get an attorney who shows respect to court orders which interpret the legal meaning of our development ordinance.

Big Mike said...

How could the Planning Board have the gall to ignore a Judge's Order, which clearly stated that the numerous wrongs the board committed in the past (under Jackson's guidance) to approve dormitories when they lacked the authority to do so, do not give license to keep repeating their misdeeds. It's a blatant slap in the face to the judicial system.

Mr. Jackson misrepresented - as he has many times previously - what the Court's ruling means. He thus fooled some of the members into overstepping their authority by approving an application - which the Court specifically articulated in the record - that could only be heard under the authority of the zoning board.

He might feel safe because the ruling Judge reached the mandatory age of retirement 3 weeks ago and can no longer sanction him or otherwise hold him accountable. But when the new Judge hears about Jackson's insolent conduct, I'm sure he will not look kindly at this antic.