Attorney John Jackson Esq., who the Lakewood Township Planning Board has appointed to serve as their Board Counsel, is working extremely hard to sway the very Board who appointed him, to turn a blind eye regarding dormitories and continue to let them slip in to residential neighborhoods - despite that the Board has made their feelings very clear to the contrary.

Even worse, after the Board stipulated an express condition of their approval of an application, their attorney ignored the Board and did not include the key condition in the resolution of approval which is up for a vote tomorrow night!

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in January, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford overturned the Lakewood Planning Board's approval of Yeshiva Toras Chaim's dormitory expansion, saying that the Township Committee does not permit dormitories in residential zones and therefore the Planning Board lacks jurisdiction to approve this non-permitted use.

While this court decision was pending, Migdal Bais Yaakov submitted an application to the Planning Board for 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.

A few months ago, Migdal 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 a permitted accessory use in schools in residential neighborhoods, 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 approved SP 2499, but held off from hearing SP 2498 saying that they wanted to first see Judge Ford's written ruling that dormitories are not permitted in Lakewood. The Board adjourned hearing SP 2498 until February 3.

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, arguing that the Planning Board is permitted to continue to approve dormitories everywhere.

Subsequently, at the public hearing on February 7th, as was reported here on FAA News, noting that Yeshiva Toras Chaim had recently filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the overturning of their dormitory approval, 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. Astoundingly, Board Attorney John Jackson gave major pushback, opining that the Board is not bound by Judge Ford's ruling and that they could hear a dormitory application.

At the time, being that the hearing on the motion was scheduled for Friday, February 17, the Board adjourned Migdal's application until the following Tuesday, February 21.

Subsequently, the court hearing on Yeshiva Toras Chaim's Motion was adjourned until Friday, March 3, therefore Migdal's application landed on the Board's Tuesday, February 21 meeting agenda despite the fact that Yeshiva Toras Chaim's motion remains pending.

At that meeting, numerous Board members again opined that as Judge Ford did already rule that dormitories are not an accessory use, they felt uncomfortable approving a dormitory now. They noted that there is a Motion for Reconsideration which remains pending in court, and therefore, they suggested again adjourning hearing the dormitory application until the outcome of the Motion for Reconsideration.

Some Board members also suggested that they approve only the school use, with the condition that the dormitory rooms 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.

Shockingly, instead of supporting the Board's will and either adjourning the matter completely pending the outcome of the Motion for Reconsideration, or approving the school use but not the dormitory use, as was previously reported here on FAA News, Board Attorney John Jackson strongly urged the Board to approve the dormitory that very night, saying that Judge Ford's ruling is "anyways not binding on the Board's future applications."

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.

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.

Subsequently, on March 10, as was previously reported here on FAA News, Ocean County Assignment Judge Francis Hodgson denied to reconsider Judge Ford's previous ruling, concluding that a Motion for Reconsideration is appropriate only when the Court erred in its decision or misapplied the correct standard of review, and not simply when the losing party is dissatisfied with the court's ruling.

Shockingly, at the court hearing, Planning Board Attorney John Jackson revealed to Judge Hodgson that he has been pushing the Board to ignore Judge Ford's ruling and continue to approve dormitory applications simply because "the Township governing body wants the Planning Board to still have jurisdiction to approve dormitories as an accessory use!"

Following the Board's previous approval of Migdal's dormitory application - which was clearly 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 - the Board is scheduled Tuesday night, March 28, to adopt a Resolution of Approval.

The Board's resolutions are drafted by the Board Attorney.

The drafted Resolution of Approval simply states "After considerable deliberation, the Board ultimately made a motion to approve the
application with the dormitory building as originally planned."

The resolution includes a list of conditions, however, the Board's expressly stated condition 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, is, quite shockingly, not included in the draft resolution!

Additional curious points is that the resolution simply states "The proposed school building will contain a mixture of classrooms, tutor rooms, libraries, meeting rooms, offices, and bedrooms. A total of 50 bedrooms are proposed."

Instead of listing a "dormitory" as a separate use - which is specifically how the Board clearly deemed it to be, the resolution innocently lists "bedrooms" just like all other "rooms in the school."

Additionally, the resolution innocently states that "schools are a permitted use in the zone," without mentioning the dormitory as a separate use. This feigned innocence is deliberate as the Board Attorney knows that the zoning ordinances do not permit the use of a "dormitory."

Why does the Board Attorney - who is appointed by the Board - continue to strong arm the Board to turn a blind eye and approve dormitories, despite that 1) the Board has stated on numerous occasions that a dormitory is not an accessory use to a school, and 2) two Superior Court judges have ruled that a dormitory is not an accessory use to a school??

More curiously, why did the Board Attorney prepare a Resolution of Approval which completely ignores the Board's expressly stated condition of approval??

The public has the right to know exactly what's going on here!

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Anonymous said...

Jackson acts as if he's appointed to the planning board, he doesn't understand what his role is as a hired attorney. Moris is no better, also thinks she a board member, doesn't understand what her job is.

Anonymous said...

Who can edumicate these wise guys?

Anonymous said...

It is abundantly clear that John Jackson has been taking orders outside of public view from someone other than the planning board members. This is highly improper. It is also illegal for a committee member to direct the planning board attorney on how to influence the planning board members - especially when it contradicts an explicit court order. This includes direct conversation and indirect messaging through the committee’s attorney. It will also not be shielded with a bogus claim of attorney client privilege when it comes out in a lawsuit.

I find it quite incredible that the attorney which drafted this proposed Resolution would deliberately change the record and omit a specific condition. It will be one of several other examples used in a Complaint against Mr. Jackson proving his lack of fidelity to his client - our Planning Board. His actions are being closely monitored and what has been seen throughout, does not encourage the idea of keeping him on the Board’s payroll - to say the least.