Join Our Telegram Channel


Yeshiva Toras Chaim has just filed an appeal to the New Jersey Appellate Division seeking to overturn Judge Ford's ruling which tossed out the Lakewood Township Planning Board's approval of the yeshiva's dormitory expansion, FAA News has learned.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in January, Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford overturned the Lakewood Township Planning Board's approval of the Yeshiva's dormitory expansion, finding that the Lakewood Township Committee has not deemed dormitories to be a permitted use in the residential zoning district and therefore the Board lacked jurisdiction to approve the non-permitted use.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in March, Ocean County Superior Court Assignment Judge Francis Hodgson denied Yeshiva Toras Chaim's Motion for Reconsideration, concluding that a Motion for Reconsideration is appropriate only when the Court erred in its decision or misapplied the correct standard of review, and not simply when the losing party is dissatisfied with the court's ruling.

The yeshiva, represented by Attorney Matthew Fiorovanti Esq. is now taking their case up to the Appellate Division.

Mr. Fiorovanti wrote:

The trial court disregarded the Board’s factual findings and independently held that a dormitory is not an accessory use of a school in Lakewood Township  and not permitted in the R-15 zone. The trial court found that the Board therefore lacked jurisdiction to consider the application and vacated the approval accordingly.

In finding that a dormitory is not a permitted accessory use of a school in the Township, the trial court erroneously substituted its own judgment for that of the Board regarding the customary relationship between dormitories and schools such as YTC in the Township.

The Board’s determination that dormitories are, in fact, customarily incidental and subordinate to schools such as YTC, which is both a high school as well as an accredited institution for higher learning, was entitled to substantial deference by the trial court in light of the Board’s unique knowledge of local conditions and could only be reversed if arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. The Board knows more than the trial court about how all-boys religiously oriented institutions of higher education such as YTC operate with the use of dorms. The Board knows that a dormitory is essential to such school—without a dorm, YTC cannot exist. The Board knows that students study nearly through the night and require a dormitory as an essential component of the school. Yet the trial court refused to defer to the Board’s findings and instead independently concluded that dorms are not a permitted accessory use of schools in the Township.

The trial court applied the wrong standard in reviewing the Board’s determination that dormitories are permitted accessory uses of a school in the R-15 zone. The trial court gave no deference to the Board’s finding that dorms were, in fact, accessory uses of a school in the Township. Instead, the trial court substituted its own independent assessment of this factual issue for that of the Board in finding that “[i]t’s clear to the Court that is a second primary use on the lot” and is “not an accessory use even under an expansive definition.” The trial court’s application of a de novo standard of review, replacing the Board’s judgment with its own independent judgment, was in error.

In addition to applying the wrong standard of review, the trial court also misapplied the “accessory use” test in independently finding that dormitories are not an accessory use of a school. Under New Jersey law, a board’s determination that a proposed use is accessory to a permitted principal use is entitled to this substantial deference and can only be reversed if arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable.

The trial court did not consider the unique facts regarding how schools such as YTC operate, including (a) the fact that the curriculum requires that study begins early in the morning and continues late into the night, (b) the fact that students of YTC and other similar schools in the Township do not reside in the immediate geographic location of the school but come from locations all over the world, and (c) the fact that YTC is not analogous to a secular public high school in New Jersey since YTC is licensed by the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education of New Jersey to offer a Bachelor of Talmudic Studies Degree.

In addition, the trial court improperly inferred that because the Township specifically allowed for dormitories as a principal permitted use in connection with a planned educational campus in the R-M zone but did not specifically authorize dormitories in the R-15 zone, the Township must have intended to prohibit dorms in the R-15 zone. The trial court’s independent “accessory use” analysis was contrary to well-settled New Jersey.

By applying the incorrect standard of review and erroneously applying the “accessory use” test under New Jersey, the trial court has upended a well- established custom in the Township. For decades, dozens of schools such as YTC have utilized dormitories as a customary and incidental—and indeed necessary—use. This undeniable fact was expressly acknowledged by the Board and formed the basis of the Board’s conclusion that a dormitory is an accessory use to a school. Indeed, YTC and similarly situated schools in the Township cannot exist with a dormitory. The trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, and its refusal to reconsider such orders, should be reversed by the Appellate Division.

The neighbors who are represented by the Law Office of Jan Meyer Esq., have a month to file their Opposition.

To join a FAA WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA WhatsApp Status, click here.

No comments: