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Spruce Street residents have just retained Attorney Jan Meyer Esq. to oppose Menachem Gutfreund's Zoning Board application for houses in their neighborhood, FAA News has learned.

Mr. Meyer got right to work first demanding that the Board adjourn the public hearing so he has an opportunity to bring experts to assist him in presenting the neighbors' opposition to the application. Additionally, Mr. Meyer is demanding that Chairman Abe Halberstam recuse himself from this application due to a conflict of interest between him and Mr. Gutfreund which was previously exposed in Superior Court.

In January 2019, Mr. Gutfreund submitted an application to the Zoning Board for 6 homes on one lot, and 4 homes on the other lot. The Township's zoning ordinances permit only 2 single family homes in this zone.

Numerous neighbors flocked to the Board's public hearing to plead with the Board to deny the requested Use Variance.

Board member Obed Gonzales worked very hard to approve the application, so much so that when Abby Hirsch, a neighbor who was opposed to the application, stated that Mr. Gonzales should recuse himself as he had just started working for a company which was under Mr. Hirsch's control, Mr. Gonzales immediately announced that he is resigning from working for that company!

The Zoning Board denied that application.

In October 2019, 118 Ocean submitted a "much reduced application" for only 9 homes on these lots. Immediately, the neighbors filed emergent legal action in Chancery Court objecting to the Board’s hearing the Second Application because, inter alia, of a conflict of interest involving Chairman Abe Halberstam and Mr. Gutfreund.

Specifically, a corporation owned, operated and/or controlled by Mr. Gutfreund was, at the time, constructing a home for Chairman Halberstam’s children!

Subsequently, Mr. Gutfreund met with the neighbors and he agreed to withdraw the Second

Thereafter, in 2020, Mr. Gutfreund returned with a revised application to construct 6 single family homes on only one of the lots, Block 837 Lot 1. This is a 60,000 sq foot lot so 1.09 homes would be permitted on that lot.

The neighbors were represented by Attorney Jan Meyer Esq. who opposed the application and asked for a minor adjournment of the hearing so he could bring an expert to testify regarding the application.

The Board ignored this request, and approved a reduced plan of 4 single family homes on 15,000 sq foot lots each.

Due to his conflict with Mr. Gutfreund which was previously exposed in Chancery Court, Mr. Halberstam was not present at that application.

Subsequently, on December 8, 2020, Mr. Meyer filed a Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writs seeking to overturn the Board's approval. The four-count lawsuit included a charge that the Board violated the statutory requirements of notice and availability of documents set forth in the Emergency Remote Meeting Protocol for Local Public Bodies.

In January 2022, Judge Ford granted summary judgement to the neighbors and tossed out the Board's approval.

In February 2023, as first reported here on FAA News, Mr. Gutfreund again charged on with his development dreams for his property, with an application to the Planning Board for a 2-story plus finished basement child care center, with a capacity of 350 children. This application is for Block 837 Lot 1, which is the site of the 2020 overturned Zoning Board approval.

Child care centers are a permitted use in the zone and therefore don't require a Use Variance from the Zoning Board, however, the Township does not have a set parking requirement for child care centers, which gives the neighbors leeway to oppose the application.

As soon as the neighbors received notice of the application, they retained Mr. Meyer to represent their opposition.

However, in April, as previously reported here on FAA News, Attorney Matthew Fiorovanti Esq. representing Mr. Gutfreund requested that the application be adjourned until further notice.

This application has not been brought back to the Board in the time since then.

Since that time, FAA News has learned that there has been some discussion with Township officials regarding the possibility of the Township swapping land with Mr. Gutfreund so that the Spruce Street property can remain open space, and possibly even one day turned into a public playground.

However, it appears that this possibility is off the table, as Mr. Gutfreund has submitted an application to the Zoning Board for a Use Variance for 6 single family homes on Block 831 Lot 1, which is across from the proposed child care center lot.

The neighbors have now retained Attorney Meyer to represent their opposition to this application.

Mr. Meyer wrote to the Board:

This is the third time an application is sought before the Lakewood Zoning Board related to this same piece of property...

Since our firm was not notified by anyone, as a mere courtesy, knowing that we represented the neighbors in the prior litigation and appeal to the County Courts, we hereby request that the matter be carried in order for our clients and our office to consult and retain our processionals in opposing this application. It is abundantly clear from Judge Ford’s decision and Order dated January 24, 2022, that my client’s are entitled to a brief adjournment
since she ruled in her decision on the merits (related to the prior application) that... “the opposing party to an application must be given a reasonable brief adjournment so that the counsel for Plaintiffs could be adequately prepared,
arrange for an opposition, expert witnesses...... and for otherwise be prepared in connection with this was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable
and therefore this matter will be — the summary judgment on that basis will be granted."

For good housekeeping purposes, please note that as in the past, Chairman Abraham Halberstam must be recused from hearing this application. The reason for this request and demand is due to what appear to be a clear conflict of interest. I refer you to my letter in the previous application before the Board dated October 24, 2019.

Below is Mr. Meyer's letter on the current Zoning Board application.

Below is Mr. Meyer's letter to the Zoning Board dated October 24, 2019 regarding Mr. Halberstam's conflict of interest with Mr. Gutfreund.

The application is on tonight's public hearing meeting agenda. The Board has not yet consented to adjourn the hearing to next month.

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