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Minutes ago, Ocean County Superior Court Assignment Judge Francis Hodgson denied to stay Lakewood Township's new ordinance which permits banquet halls and catering facilities as an accessory use in all schools in non-residential zones.

This means that the ordinance will remain in effect pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

As previously reported here on FAA News, following the Township Committee's adoption of the "banquet halls in schools" Ordinance, an Industrial Park property owner, represented by Attorney Rob Shea Esq. filed a lawsuit seeking to stay and overturn the new ordinance.

The complaint contains 15 counts including allegations that the Committee members had conflicts of interests with personal or family connections to schools which would benefit from adoption of the Ordinance, and that the Planning Board failed to make a determination as to whether or not the proposed ordinance was consistent with the Master Plan, as they are Statutorily required to do.

The complaint also alleges that the Township Committee failed to provide personal notice to affected property owners before adopting the new ordinance, and that the Committee adopting the Ordinance by virtual meeting was illegal.

In addition to eventually overturning the ordinance, the lawsuit sought to temporarily restrain the effect of the ordinance pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

According to well established case law of Crowe vs. DeGoia, in order to be granted Temporary Restraints, the moving party needs to show that they; 1) will suffer immediate irreparable injury absent the granting of relief, 2) have a reasonable probability of success of the merits of their claim, and 3) on balance, will suffer greater hardship if relief is denied than the opposing party if relief is granted.

At a hearing held last month, Judge Hodgson denied to immediately restrain the ordinance, but scheduled an additional hearing for today for the Plaintiff to again make their case for restraints.

At today's hearing, Attorney Rob Shea representing the Plaintiffs argued that the new ordinance will legalize existing banquet halls in schools without any need for the schools to even present a Site Plan application at a public hearing. Therefore, effectively, under the ordinance banquet halls can legally "pop up overnight" without even any notice to the neighbors, and for this reason the ordinance must be stayed.

"Let's stop the train from going off the rails, so that people who own schools don't immediately grab a zoning permit and start operating," said Shea.

Judge Hodgson mentioned yesterday's Appellate Division decision which found that "simcha halls" are a permitted accessory use in schools in Lakewood. Mr. Shea responded that the Appellate Division decision actually supports his argument, before their ruling considers Bar Mitzvahs to be a "school function," and it specifically precludes schools from renting out their halls to third party events such as weddings. Whereas the Township's ordinance purports to even permit schools to rent out their halls to third party events such as weddings - and the Appellate Division decision does not go so far as to permit. (Prior to the court hearing, Mr. Shea submitted the following letter to further clarify his argument on this point:)

Judge Hodgson ruled that the Plaintiff did not satisfy their burden of proof under Crowe vs. DeGoia and therefore their Order to Show Cause for restraints was denied.

The case will continue as regular litigation, meaning that the ordinance will remain in effect at least until the outcome of the litigation, depending on who wins the case.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is crazy!! Lakewood simcha hall traffic is getting worse by the day. We need help!