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Jackson Township's Zoning Board on Wednesday approved - what appears to be - their first ever Yeshiva dormitory application. The application was submitted by Yeshiva Tiferes Talmud, which is apparently owned by Lakewood developer Mark Tress of Cedar Holdings.

Attorney Donna Jennings Esq. told the Board that the Yeshiva is currently located in Monroe Township with 40 students and they anticipate that the new campus located at 537 Brewers Bridge Road can adequately serve approximately 60 students.

The application is to convert the existing residential structures on the property into a Beis Medrash in one building, and a dormitory in a second building. A third existing structure will be converted into the Rosh Yeshiva's home.

Board members were given several hours long testimony of the operations of a Beis Medrash Yeshiva. The applicant's professionals emphasized that the Yeshiva campus is designed to be "fully immersive," with minimal vehicular traffic and not much need for the likes of on-site cooking, active recreational space, or vocational training.

The parcel is split zoned between the R-1 and R-3 Zones which do not permit dormitories. These zones are also not included in the Township's settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice as a "future dormitory permitted zone." One of these zones also does not permit schools.

As such, the application required Use variance relief to permit the school and accessory dormitory  uses.

The applicant's professionals told the Board that the zoning district does permit other public uses in this zone, so they should find that schools are also an appropriate use.

The application also sought Preliminary and Final Major Site Plan Approval with several variances.

One of the variances is to permit land banking of most of the required parking spaces.

Jackson Township's zoning ordinances require 1 parking space per 1.5 students in this type of school. As such, a school with 60 students would require 40 parking spaces. The application provides only 5 spaces. As explained during the previous hearing, the rest of the parking spaces would be "land banked," which means that they will remain unpaved for now but they will be paved in the future if Township officials determine that they are needed for the site to operate properly.

Another waiver which the Board weighed heavily on was for from installing sidewalk along Brewers Bridge Road. Ms. Jennings represented to the Board that the students are supposed to remain on campus and not walk out onto the road. Additionally, she noted that the campus includes over 9 acres of land, most of which is wooded, so they have plenty of off-road area for passive recreation.

Board Member Greg Stafford-smith urged that sidewalks should be installed, however, ultimately the Board granted the waiver.

Several neighbors argued that this site is not a great location for the proposed Yeshiva campus.

One neighbor noted that although the Township does have a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for certain future dormitory permitted zones, however, this is not one of those zones so the Board should not reach further than the Justice Department and permit this dormitory.

Another neighbor said that the yeshiva's property line is near their own property line, and possibly the yeshiva students will be able to hear them disciplining their kids.

Public records obtained by FAA News indicate that this site was purchased in January 2022 for $1.4 million.

Jackson's land use boards have, in recent months, approved a number of Yeshiva and shul applications. However, it appears that this is the Zoning Board's first ever Yeshiva dormitory application.

The approval of this dormitory may signal the beginning of a new era that dormitories are welcome in Jackson Township, perhaps even more so than in Lakewood.

As the news was first broken here on FAA News, in response to a lawsuit filed by adjoining neighborhoods seeking to overturn the Lakewood Township Planning Board's approval of a dormitory expansion for Yeshiva Toras Chaim, located at 999 Ridge Avenue, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford did overturn the approval.

Additionally, as more recently reported here on FAA News, there is a lawsuit currently pending which seeks to overturn the Lakewood Township Planning Board's approval of a dormitory expansion for Yeshiva Birchas Chaim, located at 1111 Vine Avenue.

Ms. Jennings warned the Board that if they deny the application, she will sue and win in court over RLUIPA claims. Board Attorney Ryan Murphy argued back that Judge Ford did find that dormitories are not permitted in Lakewood, and he feels that if the Jackson Zoning Board does want to deny the application, their denial could be similarly upheld in court. Ms. Jennings responded that Yeshiva Toras Chaim's lawsuit was only regarding typical arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable claims, however, if they appeal based on RLUIPA claims they will definitely be victorious.

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