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The Lakewood Township Committee and Industrial Commission have been quietly pushing forward a proposal to permit construction of 150 feet high rise buildings in a portion in the Township.

It appears that they may be using their attorneys to cover up concerns regarding fire safety and a budgetary impact.

Even more concerning is that Mayor Ray Coles, who has discussed the specifics of the proposal with Township fire officials and therefore obviously has firsthand knowledge of the proposal, has even downplayed the proposal to the Lakewood News Network!

East of the Garden State Parkway, near the Brick Township border, (bounded by Cedar Bridge Avenue and Route 70), are several blocks of Township owned land. A portion of the land is located in the ABC zoning district, which does not permit development of schools, and a portion of the land is located in the LP zoning district which does permit development of schools.

At the request of the Lakewood Industrial Commission who is seeking to facilitate the anticipated sale of property in accordance with certain standards, the Township Committee recently introduced an Ordinance which would rezone the portion of the ABC zoning district to the LP zoning district, eliminate schools as a permitted use, and amend the maximum height permitted from 65 feet to 150 feet.

The LP zone currently permits professional offices and office buildings; banks and other financial lending institutions; doctors, dentists, and other recognized medical practitioners; medical laboratories; assisted living facilities; nursing homes; corporate headquarters and executive offices; hotels and conference centers (hotels may include, but not be limited to, a lobby, full-service restaurant, cocktail lounges, meeting rooms, banquet facilities, and convention facilities); public and private schools; recreational facilities including ice skating rinks, bowling alleys, and other indoor recreational activities; facilities for the provision of health and human services including spas, gyms, health clubs and like facilities; scientific or research laboratories devoted to the research design or experimentation and processing and fabricating incidental thereto; restaurants; and retail centers, department stores and supermarkets.

The Amended Ordinance will eliminate schools from this list. It will also include warehouses, outdoor storage, and terminal facilities; manufacturing, compounding, processing, packaging; monument signs; as well as parking garage structures and automated parking systems as accessory uses to permitted principal uses.

Currently, the LP zone has the same area, yard, and lot requirements as the M-1 Zone (which includes most of the industrial park):

Minimum Lot Area: 3 acres

Minimum Lot Width: 300 feet

Front Yard Setback: 50/100 feet

Rear Yard Setback: 30 feet

Side Yard Setback: 30 feet with an aggregate of 70 feet

Maximum Building Coverage: 40%

Maximum Building Height: 65 feet

Accessory Building

Rear Yard Setback: 10 feet

Side Yard Setback: 10 feet

The Amended Ordinance will create a separate area, yard, and lot requirement for the LP zone, as follows:

Minimum Lot Area: 3 acres

Minimum Lot Width: 50 feet

Front Yard Setback: 50 feet

Rear Yard Setback: 30 feet

Side Yard Setback: 30 feet with an aggregate of 70 feet

Maximum Building Coverage: 65%

Maximum Building Height: 150 feet

Accessory Building

Rear Yard Setback: 10 feet

Side Yard Setback: 10 feet 

So the takeaway is... 150 feet high buildings, but no schools allowed.

According to public records obtained by FAA News, the Township forwarded this proposal to the Board of Fire Commissioners for their review, and fire officials, including the fire chief - have already expressed some concerns with the proposal.

Ian Goldman serves as Counsel to the Board of Fire Commissioners and he reported to the Board that "the Mayor and Township Committee notified him regarding their high rise building proposal and asked for a report from the Chief about any ideas or recommendations that he may have in reference to this proposal."

Noting that the high rise buildings will only be located in one area in the Township and will provide a benefit only to a limited number of property owners, yet all taxpayers in the Township will see an increase in their taxes due to this proposal, the Board of Fire Commissioners responded by soliciting a quote from VFIS for an impact study to be done regarding this proposal to permit High-Rise buildings in Lakewood.

Curiously, it appears that Township officials have been using their own attorney to hide these concerns.

When the Planning Board reviewed the introduced Ordinance for consistency with the Township's Master Plan, Board Member Bruce Stern specifically asked if the fire department had any concerns with the proposal. In response, Board Engineer Terry Vogt advised him that he was told by Township Attorney Harold Hensel that he reached out to the Fire District and that they did not have any concerns at all with the proposal!

Thanks to this guidance, all Board members besides for David Helmreich and Yair Stern voted to endorse the proposal.

This is not the first time in recent months that Township officials have used their attorneys to help push through their agenda without the need to properly face the public.

As previously reported here on FAA News regarding a land swap behind Pine Street, most of the communication between the Township and the developer was done through their attorneys. In this way, Township officials were able to refuse to release these emails as they were "protected under attorney-client privilege."

Additionally concerning regarding this high rise building proposal is that according to a report by Lakewood News Network, Mayor Coles claimed that the zoning amendment will match the permitted height to "match the Cedarbridge Corporate Campus," and that "there are no plans to build high-rise buildings on the site."

This is wholly inaccurate. The Cedarbridge Corporate Campus is located in the DA-1 zone which used to have a height limit of 75 feet. In April 2021, the Township Committee amended this to 90 feet, and 120 feet high with fire department approval. In contrast, the LP zone currently has a height limit of 65 feet and the pending ordinance will increase that height to 150 feet, with no requirement to receive fire department approval.

Additionally, Mayor Coles acknowledged to LNN only that schools will be eliminated as a permitted use, and warehousing and corporate uses will become permitted. Missing from the facts of the proposal is that the zone also currently permits hotels with banquet halls and that under the Amended Ordinance, hotels with banquet halls will be permitted at 150 feet high.

Township officials also made use of this "hiding behind their attorneys" trick while adopting the banquet halls in schools ordinance. Instead of the Planning Board submitting their report on the proposed ordinance through their Administrator as they typically do, their attorney wrote his own version of their report - which the Board members did not see - and he sent it directly to the Township Attorney.

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Meir @ Perkins Coie said...

This scandalous affair brings to mind the same trickery that democrats utilized when they manipulated high level government intelligence resources to persecute her political rival. The Clinton campaign was careful to make sure there was nothing in the public record tracing the genesis of the hoax dossier back to them by hiding their activities behind the purported cover of attorney client privilege. It’s apparent that our committeemen have been using the same “attorneys” trick to keep the public in the dark about issues of major impact, and which should absolutely be fully disclosed for public input early in the process. The committeemen and their handlers must be worried that unless the public is kept in the dark about their machinations, they may not get their way.

These politicians sure know how to play dirty and still put on an honest looking poker face denying their scheming activities. But they still can’t fool the tzibbur after their pathetic shtick keeps getting exposed again and again. They’re not fooling anybody.

NOT MENASH said...

Recently, I called the planning board secretary to request the Board's recommendation report regarding the-then-proposed banquet hall ordinance. She responded that this report was being treated differently than regular recommendation reports as it was emailed from John Jackson, the board attorney, directly to the Committee's attorney. She therefore claimed that she was unable to release it, as it was not a public record due to attorney-client privilege.

Most interesting is that when I was eventually able to see it in the court's lawsuit record of the already-adopted banquet hall ordinance, I noticed that Mr. Jackson had misrepresented (or totally botched) what the planning board had actually recommended.

But it probably didn't matter that much because the Committee members disregarded the Board's recommendation anyways and voted to require only half of the recommended parking ratio.