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Lakewood developer Yanky Lipshitz is once again doing all he can to avoid providing a shul and playground in a new Belz development.

Planning Board Attorney John Jackson Esq. rung his hands in the air, calling it the fine line difference between "tax evasion" and "tax avoidance."

On September 20, 2018, Mr. Lipshitz presented Application SD 2288 to Lakewood Township's Planning Board for 29 lots along Evergreen Boulevard starting at its intersection with Locust Street. The original right-of-way of Evergreen Boulevard meets up with Harrogate's driveway which its residents were unhappy with. As a result, Mr. Lipshitz agreed to pave access through a new roadway further east of Vermont Avenue. As shown in the photo below, this new roadway will loop around the 29 houses and meet up with the original right-of-way of Evergreen Boulevard.

The Board at the time discussed a shul and a playground, noting that these amenities in the nearby Belz developments are all full and they are anyways across a busy intersection. Mr. Lipshitz refused to provide any of his own, instead taking advantage of a legal loophole. The Township officially requires developers of over 25 units to provide open space, however, the Township permits developers of 25-29 houses to pay $500 per unit to a Township Open Space fund in lieu of providing a playground.

Additionally, Mr. Lipshitz was planning on a cul-de-sac bulb at the terminus of Evergreen Boulevard with no secondary access roadway. Planning Board members insisted on upgrading this plan with a real secondary roadway and ultimately they conditioned their approval on the developer not receiving any Certificate of Occupancies until June Street is paved with at least base coat so the buses would be able to use that road to get out to Vermont Avenue.

Just a few months later, on February 19, 2019, Mr. Lipshitz presented Application SD 2359 for 12 duplex units along June Street from the Evergreen Boulevard intersection out to Vermont Avenue.

Mr. Lipshitz purposely presented these two applications separately so that the Planning Board could again not require him to provide any shul or playground.

Pictured below are both of these approvals together. Application SD 2288 is to the right. Application SD 2359 is to the left.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back on May 24, 2022, Mr. Lipshitz was back at the Planning Board with Application SD 2522 for 2 units on the other side of Evergreen Boulevard at the unimproved Farry Street intersection.

Any subdivision of land creating more than 4 lots and/or a new street is considered a Major Subdivision, which requires legal notice to the neighbors and additional drainage work.

In this application, Mr. Lipshitz simply sought a waiver from improving Farry Street, thus claiming the application is now downgraded to only a Minor Subdivision, hence he was no longer required to provide notice to the neighboring property owners (who therefore had no knowledge that there was a road waiver request). In his 2018 and 2019 applications, in which Mr. Lipshitz did provide proper notice to the neighbors, numerous neighbors did oppose the applications.

So, now we are up to 43 housing units, plus basement apartments (86 families) with no shul and no playground.

As previously reported here on FAA News, once again, in December 2022, Mr. Lipshitz presented Application SD 2530 for Major Subdivision approval to construct 4 duplex units at the end of Evergreen Boulevard and Temple Street.

This application was originally submitted for 6 duplex units, however, the Board Engineer determined that that would have exceeded the maximum density of allowable units per acre and only the Zoning Board has jurisdiction to grant a Use of Density Variance, so Mr. Lipshitz reduced the number of units to 4.

Despite that this application now brought the number of new families to 59, the Planning Board's hands were again tied from being permitted to require a shul and playground.

However, one thing that the Board was able to require, only after much arm twisting: a proper cul-de-sac bulb at the terminus of Temple Street. Mr. Lipshitz had attempted to provide only a smaller turn-around.

As previously reported here on FAA News, in response to another application submitted by Mr. Lipshitz (on Chestnut Street) the Planning Board recently took a valiant, bold move to clamp down on these "piecemeal applications" that don't provide a playground and shul.

Essentially, the Board reinterpreted the Township's Open Space Ordinance to count each basement apartment as a separate "unit."

Under this new interpretation, applications with 15 houses, which include 15 basement apartments, will already be required to provide a playground as they will meet the Township's threshold of 30 "units." (Applications with 12-14 houses plus basement apartments will still be permitted to pay the $500 in lieu amount).

Apparently, Yanky Lipshitz is simply not one to get perturbed by valiant efforts to get playgrounds and shuls in new developments, as this Tuesday, Mr. Lipshitz presented Application SD 2552 to the Planning Board for construction of yet another 12 duplex units along June Street!

Even better, the application includes an undefined "remaining vacant tract"...

The application requested a design waiver from paving Farry Street. Curiously, Mr. Lipshitz's legal notice to the neighbors leaves out this pertinent fact...

At the public hearing on Tuesday night, Board Engineer Terry Vogt urged that the remaining vacant lot should be restricted for open space, as - under the Board's new interpretation of the Open Space Ordinance - any housing development of the lot would cross the Township's threshold for the requirement of open space.

Engineer Brian Flannery pushed back very hard, saying that the Township's ordinance defines "duplex" as "a building on a single lot containing two side-by-side only dwelling units with fronts staggered by not more than three feet, each of which is totally separated from the other by an unpierced wall extending from ground to roof with both dwelling units and having separate private entrances to each dwelling unit. The entrances for both dwelling units must face a public street. Front-to-back dwelling units are not considered to be a duplex."

Mr. Flannery attempted to argue that a "duplex " is defined as "a building on a single lot containing two side-by-side only dwelling units," and therefore a basement apartment should not be considered a separate "unit" under the Open Space Ordinance.

Board Member Yair Stern shot back "you can make the argument that the two side by side are a duplex, but it’s not making reference 
either way to the basement units. That could be the definition for a duplex with no basements."

Board Member David Helmreich echoed his words, saying that "that ship has already sailed, the Board has spoken that a basement apartment does count a separate unit."

Mr. Flannery pushed back, saying that although he anyways disagrees with the Board's new interpretation of the Open Space Ordinance, either way, the remaining vacant lot should not be restricted to open space, as the remaining vacant tract could be developed by-right for a duplex, or as a triplex if granted a Use Variance from the Zoning Board; and even if this is a triplex that will be 6 units in addition to the 24 units being approved tonight, that will total only 30 units, which is exactly the maximum that the Township permits a payment in lieu of a playground.

Acting Chairman Bruce Stern and Mr. Helmreich noted that the application is designed with double‐stacked parking, and virtually no off‐street parking. They asked if they would do one single across and three stacked instead.

Mr. Flannery pushed back, saying "one and three only makes that worse."

Mr. Bruce Stern asked if they can provide horseshoe drives.

Mr. Flannery answered, "we can do that on lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 where there is room, and provide a turnaround by moving the footprints back. And the other where we can’t, we won’t."

Prior to the Board voting to approve the application, Aaron Hirsch, a resident of Chestnut Street, stated that public records indicate that at the time of the previous application, which was in December 2022, Mr. Lipshitz already owned tonight's lots (SD 2552, which he purchased in September 2021).

The Board turned to Attorney John Jackson Esq. for guidance. Mr. Jackson stated that the Board had no ability to deny the application or require a playground or shul, as, unfortunately, this is the fine line difference between "tax evasion" and "tax avoidance."

No construction on the previous applications has begun. Applications SD 2359 and SD 2288 received final resolution compliance in 2021, however, certain paperwork still needs to be submitted before the Township's Engineering Department will permit any construction to begin.

Application SD 2530 has begun the initial resolution compliance process.

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