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Citing a corruption risk that exists whenever there is a conflict of interest, Attorney Jan Meyer Esq., representing neighbors who are opposing the Sunset Road Sephardic Congregation's Site Plan application is formally demanding that Board Member Justin Flancbaum recuse himself from sitting on the application, citing his major conflict of interest with Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq., the attorney representing the shul, FAA News has learned.

Mr. Meyer referenced a comprehensive letter that he previously sent to the Board regarding this issue on another application where he was representing neighbors opposition.

Adam Pfeffer is the attorney for the Lakewood Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) of which Justin Flancbaum is the Executive Director. After Mr. Pfeffer gets development applications approved at the Planning Board (on which Justin Flancbaum sits) the developers then go to the MUA for their water approval.

Justin Flancbaum was Chairman of Lakewood's Master Plan Committee. Adam Pfeffer was a member of the Committee, and also a member of the Housing Density Subcommittee which held a number of closed door, unannounced, sessions in which the Subcommittee members voted to change the zoning of numerous parcels of land around town (for which Adam then represented at their Planning Board hearings).

There is also a very close personal connection as when Justin Flancbaum sold his Newport Avenue home to Yeshiva Gedola of South Jersey, Adam Pfeffer was his personal attorney. Justin also has ownership in several corporations which were registered by Adam Pfeffer.

Mr. Meyer is demanding that Justin therefore recuse himself from the Sunset Road Sefardic Congregation application because the Local Government Ethics Law expressly extends member’s disqualification to reach... "direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonable be expected to impair his objective or independence of judgment." Additionally, the Municipal Land Use Law expressly prohibits a board member from acting on any mater in which he has "either directly or indirectly any personal or financial interest."

As first reported here on FAA News back in October 2022, the Sunset Road Sefardic Congregation, located at 220 Sunset Road near Liberty Drive is seeking to demolish the residential house they currently use "ad hoc" for their Shul and Kollel and replace it with a new 2-story building.

According to the architectural plans submitted to the Board back originally, the first floor was to contain a 2,218 sq foot Beis Medrash as well as a 544 sq foot Otzar / Cheder Sheni, and the second floor was to contain a 1,273 sq foot Ezras Noshim as well as a 93 sq foot warming kitchen.

The Township's zoning ordinances require 1.25 parking spaces for every 100 sq feet of "main sanctuary space" if such space is more than 2,000 sq feet. The ordinance specifies that "main sanctuary area shall not include secondary sanctuary space, mikvah, hallways, bathrooms, kitchen, and other ancillary and/or support rooms."

As such the Beis Medrash would require 28 off-street parking spaces. The Site Plan which was designed by Engineer Eric Halpert of Haler Consulting of Jackson, provided only 9 off-street parking spaces.

Interestingly, the application as submitted indicated that they only require 18 parking spaces. That was incorrect.

The application meets the total lot area requirement of 12,000 sq feet, and the lot width requirement of 100 feet.

However, the application sought variances for Front Yard Setback of 25 feet where 30 feet is required, and for Side Yard Setback of 4 feet where 10 feet is required, and for Rear Yard Setback of 4.8 feet where 20 feet is required.

The application also sought a parking setback variance as all of the parking spaces will go up to the property line, as the proposed buffer will be only 10 inches instead of the required 20 foot.

The shul provided a traffic study which was performed by McDonough and Rea Associates. It confidently assures the Board that "the parking supply is adequate to support the anticipated demand and use of the shul since the shul is intended to serve congregants within the neighborhood and it is expected that a number of congregants will walk to the shul."

The shul is being represented by Jackson Attorney Adam Pfeffer.

As previously reported here on FAA News, the neighbors who are opposed to all of the requested variances retained Toms River Attorney Ed Liston to represent their opposition.

At the scheduled hearing on October 25, 2022, Mr. Liston requested a 30 day adjournment so he could have ample time to review the entire application.

Subsequently, as previously reported here on FAA News, at the November 25, 2022 public hearing, instead of presenting the application to the Planning Board, Mr. Pfeffer requested to carry the application until further notice, noting that the neighbors have "substantial concerns with the application, and they have retained an attorney to represent their objections and therefore the applicant wants to table the application to give them time to try to work amicably with the neighbors."

Since that time the application has been slightly modified so as to reduce and nearly eliminate the Minimum Side yard setback variance, though at the same time some of the parking was eliminated.

The revised application proposes a building footprint of about 5,700 square feet in area. The plans indicate that the proposed house of worship will contain a main sanctuary of more than 2,900 square feet on the 1st floor.

The Site Plan seeks the following variances: Minimum Side yard setback of 9 feet where 10 feet is required; Aggregate side yard setback of 19 feet where 25 feet is required; Minimum rear yard setback of 5 feet where 20 feet is required; 48% building coverage is proposed where the maximum allowed is 25%; Buffer variance of "0" feet where 20 feet is required; 6 off street parking spaces are proposed where 37 are required.

The application has been scheduled for a public hearing before the Lakewood Township Planing Board this Tuesday, May 9, 2023 at Town Hall, 231 Third Street.

Neighbors who remain opposed to the granting of the variances being sought have now retained Attorney Jan Meyer Esq. to represent their opposition.

Mr. Meyer just wrote a letter to the Board seeking an adjournment "until either May 23 or June 20 due to the Jewish holiday of “Lag B’omer” and the fact that our expert is not available on May 9."

In addition, referencing his previous letter on the issue, Mr. Meyer formally demanded that Justin Flancbaum must recuse himself because of his close connection to Adam Pfeffer who is the applicant's attorney.

After selling his Lakewood home, Justin moved to Jackson Township. Under State law (NJSA 40:55D-23), most Planning Board members are required to leave the board if they move out of town, however, Justin is legally permitted to stay on the Board despite moving out of town because, as an an MUA official, he is a Class II member of the Board and they are permitted to stay on the board despite moving out of town.

According to accepted legal standards, "a conflict of interest creates corruption risk when an employee or contracted third party breaches the duty due to the company by acting in regard to another interest and does not advise the company of this."

The Planning Board has not yet responded regarding this corruption risk.

The application also requires approval from the Ocean County Planning Board. As previously reported here on FAA News, the application was already presented to the Ocean County Planning Board, and after hearing from neighbors about their grave concerns over the inadequate parking that already exists on the shul's current site, and how the situation will only get exacerbated if the building expansion plan is approved, County officials agreed to halt approval of the expansion plan.

Neighbors told the County, "over the years that the congregation has been here, it has grown, and along with that the amount of foot and vehicle traffic. Cars that are parking for the congregation, park anywhere they can fit with no regard for the busy road. Very often they park on the sidewalk and block access for young school children to gain access to their bus without walking in the very busy street. Many cars even park with their vehicles well over the white line, in the roadway, causing a safety issue for both directions of traffic. Today, before expanding the size and capacity of the building, there are, at times, well over 20 cars parked, sometimes haphazardly along Sunset Road with no regard for safety."

This testimony from the neighbors directly contradicts the Shul's "Traffic Study" which confidently assures that "the parking supply is adequate to support the anticipated demand and use of the shul since the shul is intended to serve congregants within the neighborhood and it is expected that a number of congregants will walk to the shul."

In response, County Engineers asserted that the Shul needs to "justify the lack of proposed on-site parking as it relates to current issues with vehicles parking along the County road". Additionally, the County Planning Board has halted construction until the Shul "clarifies if 9 on-site parking spaces adequately address the parking requirements for the proposed use."

Mr. Meyer is the chairman of the Teaneck Zoning Board.

In late 2021, Mr. Meyer was successful in getting Ocean County Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford to toss out a Lakewood Township Zoning Board approval of a Use Variance for homes on undersized lots on Spruce Street after the Board refused to postpone the hearing so the neighbors could have the opportunity to retain their own engineer to review the plans.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Mr. Meyer is currently representing the Spruce Street neighbors who are opposed to a child care center application on that same site.

As the news was first broken here on FAA News, Mr. Meyer successfully got Judge Ford to overturn a Planning Board approval of Yeshiva Toras Chaim's dormitory, finding that the Township's ordinances only permit dormitories in Planned Educational Campuses (which require 3 acres).

Mr. Meyer also represented neighbors opposed to a major application with 125 homes on Cross Street and James Street. As previously reported here on FAA News, Mr. Meyer was successful in getting the Board to vote that they lack jurisdiction to hear the application.

Additionally, as the news was very first broken here on FAA News, Mr. Meyer is currently representing Jackson residents who are suing the Township to overturn their land swap with Mordechai Eichorn.

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Gedalyah said...

Of all the people the Township Committee could have appointed to the Housing Density Subcommittee, they chose Adam who neither lives nor works in Lakewood, but just so happens to represent developers and is connected to Justin...

Anonymous said...

Justin and adam are best friends. 2 peas in a pod.


Adam P also helps arrange approvals and other necessary items for his client’s applications at Lakewood’s MUA where he serves as Board attorney to his client Justin F.

Lakewood’s land use & developer environment is more tight-knit than most people would ever believe is possible!