Due to prompting from a local resident, Lakewood Township's Planning Board recently highlighted the issues of developers "manipulating the system" to sneak away from the Township's requirements to provide shuls and playgrounds in new developments.

The Township Ordinance (18-808) states: 

Not less than 5% of land area of every residential major subdivision or residential site plan consisting of 25 or more units shall be preserved as common open space or shall be dedicated to active recreational or community facilities...

The required open space area shall be contiguous, free of environmental constraints such as flood plains, wetlands, bodies of water, storm water drainageways and basins (exclusive of underground facilities), or steep slopes. This land shall be utilized for passive or active recreation, community facilities or left as undisturbed open space and/or wildlife habitat....

In essence, the Township requires developers to provide "open space" in land use applications of 25 or more units. Typically, the Planning Board defines this "open space" requirement to mean a shul and playground.

However, there are two glaring issues with this Ordinance, which the Planning Board discussed this week.

One is that the Ordinance specifically includes a "25-29 units clause" which states as follows:

For any project consisting of less than or equal to 30 dwelling units, it is recognized as impractical that recreational facilities be constructed and the payment in-lieu-of-construction is encouraged. For any project over 30 dwelling units the above recreation standards shall apply.... The maximum contribution per dwelling unit shall not be more than $500.

The cash bequest shall be used exclusively for park and recreation purposes and shall be placed in the current budget line item designated "parks and playgrounds, other expenses." Lakewood Township reserves the right to use said funds for the above referenced purposes anywhere within the Township of Lakewood.

Essentially, what this means is that for land use applications of 25-29 units, the developer can legally drop $500 per unit into some Township bank account in lieu of building an actual shul and playground.

Curiously, the ordinance does not shy away from admitting that these funds can be used for "parks and playgrounds, other expenses" for anywhere in the Township and not specifically for upgrades to the closest Township owned park.

More alarming, this 5% Open Space requirement does not count towards the number of houses being built at any one time, but rather towards the number of houses in a particular land use application.

Aaron Hirsch, a resident of the Chestnut Street area, highlighted this issue at last week's Planning Board public hearing of an application submitted by Lotzarich LLC for just two single family homes. Mr. Hirsch commented that this developer has submitted a number of similar "minor applications" on this block over the past number of months, and by presenting applications which are below the 5% open space requirement threshold, the developer is sneaking away from needing to build a shul and playground.

Brian Flannery, the engineer representing Lotzarich, spoke up, saying that the other applications in the area were submitted "by different LLC's." Board Chairman Moshe Neiman responded that "one developer could be hiding behind many different LLC's."

Board Attorney John Jackson Esq. noted that, depending on how one "structures things," there is a difference between tax evasion and tax "avoidance."

Mr. Neiman summed it all up by saying "at the end of the day, when there are 100 families with no shul and playground, the end users (i.e. the families living in the new homes) are the ones being fooled by the developers.

Mr. Neiman also suggested, "next time the same developer submits another "creeping application," hire an attorney."

This is not the first time that the Planning Board tackled this issue.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in December 2022, after a developer submitted a number of "creeping applications" with no amenities, at the very least the Board imposed a stipulation that the developer is required to construct a cul-de-sac bulb so that school buses would be able to service the many residents living in this area.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And what about people who buy in the neighborhood that don’t need a shul but want a Christian church, should they provide them too??? Don’t discriminate !!!