The Lakewood Township Committee today adopted on final reading a new ordinance which will permit construction closer to the road - completely ignoring that the Planning Board halted endorsement of the ordinance over traffic safety hazard and transparency concerns.

All construction in the Township is regulated by setback requirements which prohibit building within a certain amount of space close to the property line.

Typically, buildings have setback requirements for the front yard, two side yards, and a rear yard, and these requirements vary based on each zoning district.

As typical in other municipalities, Lakewood Township's current zoning ordinances require a stricter setback in the Front Yard than in the Side Yard.

In many residential zoning districts in Lakewood, the front yard setback requirement is 30 feet while the side yard setback requirement is 10-20 feet. In the A-1 and R-40 zones the front yard setback requirement is 50 feet while the side yard setback requirement is 15 feet with an aggregate of 40 feet.

The purpose of setbacks is to ensure one building does not infringe on another building's right to sunlight, ventilation, greenery, and vehicular access. Another key purpose of setbacks is so pedestrians don't feel that buildings are "too close to the road" and that drivers have a clear vision of intersecting traffic, without impediment from buildings.

The issue at hand is that a corner lot, which has frontage on two streets, is considered to have two front yards, and this minimizes the amount of property space you can build on.

In May 2022, in response to corner lot homeowners who wanted to install accessory structures and pools in their yards but were blocked by the Township's strict front yard setback requirement, the Township Committee decided to address this issue by adopting an Ordinance which differentiates the front yard setback requirement for corner lot homes which only have a front entryway oriented toward one street.

That Ordinance specifies that in all residential zones, where a corner lot has a residence fronting on one street with its front entryway oriented toward that street (the dominant street), the street frontage not associated with the front door entryway (the subservient street) shall be permitted to utilize the side yard setback for that zone for accessory structures, including pools, provided adequate screening from the subservient street is incorporated into the application for permits for accessory structures, and any applicable sight triangles remain unimpeded, as determined by the Township's Engineering Department upon application for construction permits.

In response to continued requests from corner lot homeowners, the Township Committee has now decided to take this measure one step further, with an additional Ordinance which will permit such corner lot homeowners who want to build an addition to their existing owner-occupied single family structure, to utilize a minimum front yard setback for that subservient side of seventeen feet measured from the property line, provided adequate screening from the subservient street is incorporated into the application for permits for said residential addition, and any applicable sight triangles remain unimpeded, as determined by the township’s engineering department upon application for construction permits.

The Ordinance will be applicable to all residential zones, and specifically for additions to existing owner-occupied single family structures (not for new schools).

Like all land use ordinances, the Township Committee forwarded the ordinance to the Planning Board for their review. State Statute provides that the Planning Board has 35 days to complete their review. As the Committee introduced the Ordinance on February 16, the Planning Board should have until March 23 to submit their report.

As previously reported here on FAA News, at their public hearing this week the Planning Board halted endorsement of this proposed ordinance, citing traffic safety concerns as well as transparency concerns, and requested that the Township attorney come to their next meeting to discuss their concerns with the ordinance.

Board Attorney John Jackson noted that this ordinance would eliminate costs for corner lot homeowners looking to construct additions to their homes, as currently, such additions in the front yard setback require application to the Zoning Board which requires professional testimony from an engineer.

Board Member David Helmreich retorted that this could also detriment the neighbors as by eliminating the need for an application to the Zoning Board, legal notice to the neighbors as well as an opportunity for them to object to the granting of such a variance would also be lost.

Board Administrator Ally Morris added that this proposed ordinance would create one new unilateral "Subservient Front Yard Setback" of 17 feet while currently, the front yard setback varies between 30 to 50 feet for a variety of zoning districts, and likewise the side yard setback varies between 10 to 20 feet for a variety of zoning districts.

Board members also expressed traffic safety concerns with the proposed ordinance, noting that one of the key purposes of setbacks is so that drivers have a clear vision of intersecting traffic, without impediment from high buildings too close to the roadway.

Board Member Bruce Stern commented that on busy roads with lots of traffic it's imperative to retain unimpeded sight triangles, and it appears that the proposed ordinance would accomplish just the opposite.

Board Engineer Terry Vogt responded that the proposed ordinance does appear to address these concerns as it expressly stipulates "provided adequate screening from the subservient street is incorporated..., and any applicable sight triangles remain unimpeded, as determined by the township’s engineering department..."

However, Board Chairman Moshe Neiman echoed the concerns of the other Board members and said that the Board will hold off endorsement of the Ordinance so as to give the Township Attorney an opportunity to come to a future Planning Board meeting and address the Board's concerns before they make their final recommendation to the Township Committee.

Despite all this, the final reading of this Ordinance remained on the Committee's meeting agenda for today.

A member of the public submitted a comment requesting that the Committee hold off on the second reading of the Ordinance as the Planning Board has not yet completed their review.

Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller offered a Motion to Proceed. Committeeman Albert Akerman offered a Second to the Motion to Proceed. The ordinance was adopted unanimously.

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Menashe said...

I don't see the big deal.

One of my Chaverim who has bailed me out in the past called and asked me for a quick favor. He wants to extend his house and he doesn't want to seek a variance as he's scared that his neighbors will object on the basis that building too close to the road is hazardous. He asked me to fix things by adopting an Ordinance that eliminates his need to seek a variance.

So I introduced this ordinance.

True, the Planning Board has safety concerns, but I really owe my Chaver big time as he is supporting my upcoming election campaign, and anyways it's no big deal because I've adopted ordinances to help other friends as well.

Anonymous said...

Menashe, You forgot to mention that you've adopted ordinances to help yourself gantz fine too.

Ironically, at least one of those ordinances involved a street vacation as well. You'll remember this one while you're at home 😉

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you put the Albert Shul there. By putting the shul closer to Albert Ave, it increased the parking to above the needed amount. It is not in the "triangle" and is far enough from the corner that it doesn't impede the view. It keeps the cars going in and out of the shul farther from the corner and therefore safer and causes lass traffic. If the front steps would be straight down then it would be lass safe even though it would be much more conforming.
Sometimes using common sense works.