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At their recent public hearing, Lakewood Township's Planning Board made it very clear that they are disinterested in developers seeking to quietly get approval for changes to already approved applications without notifying the neighbors of the change requests and without submitting full Amended Site Plans.

Back in 2017, Khal Meor Chaim received Site Plan approval to replace their smaller size shul on Miller Road and Adams Street with a larger, 2-story shul.

The Planning Board's approval included conditions that the shul provide a masonry enclosure around the trash and recycling containers, and that the shul provide a 6 foot high vinyl fence between the Shul property and the neighboring lot. (Fencing around property lines is a pretty standard condition of approval in Lakewood).

The new shul, Bais Medrash of Miller Road, is now constructed. Instead of constructing the masonry enclosure as required, they constructed a 6 foot wide solid white vinyl fence around the trash and recycling containers. Additionally, the shul has now purchased the neighboring lot, and they are planning a future expansion on that lot, therefore, they did not yet construct the 6 foot high vinyl fence between the Shul property and that lot, as they feel it is not necessary.

Due to these outstanding items, the Township only granted the shul a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, saying that they can only receive a final Certificate of Occupancy once all of the Planning Board's conditions of approval have been met.

The shul therefore submitted a letter of correspondence to the Board, seeking permission to amend the approval to permit their 6 foot wide solid white vinyl fence around the trash and recycling containers to remain in place, and for the 6 foot high vinyl fence between the Shul property and the neighboring lot to no longer be required.

The shul did not provide notice to the neighbors regarding this "correspondence request."

The Board's original Site Plan approval contains a stipulation that the "Applicant shall resubmit this entire proposal for re-approval should there be any deviation from the terms and conditions of this approval or the documents submitted as part of this application, all of which are made a part heareof and shall be binding on the applicant."

"Resubmitting an entire proposal for re-approval" typically means submitting an application to the Board for an Amended Site Plan, and that requires sending notices to the neighbors.

However, the Board also has a written policy that they will accept "correspondence" in certain, limited instances. Correspondence does not require notice to the public and officially does not permit for the public to comment on the application. The Board's written policy states that "correspondence" is for "miniscule, insignificant changes which could really be approved administratively by the Board's professionals but the Board reviews such requests anyways to ensure that their professionals are carrying out the original intent of the board."

Bais Medrash of Miller Road /  Khal Meor Chaim now submitted their request for changes to their approval as "correspondence" with no notice to the neighbors.

Attorney Cassandra DiStefano Esq. (of Levin Shea Pfeffer Goldman) represented the shul at the Board's public hearing.

Board Chairman Moshe Neiman immediately pushed back, saying that the Township's ordinance requires a masonry enclosure, and installing a solid white vinyl fence instead would require a design waiver from the Board which he doesn't think is appropriate.

Board Engineer Dave Mangos echoed Mr. Neiman's words, saying that vinyl fences tend to get damaged more from trash pick up trucks backing into them, whereas trucks are more careful not to drive into masonry enclosures so they end up being more durable.

Ms. DiStefano tried saying that the Township's Department of Public Works agrees with them that fences are better. Mr. Magnos retorted, "if that's truly the case, ask them to send us such an opinion on writing!"

Mr. Neiman stated that the Board keeps getting similar requests, and such requests require design waivers from the Board, which the Board does not like to grant as they prefer masonry walls. He opined that if developers truly feel that vinyl fences are more appropriate, they should discuss with the Township Committee and ask them to amend their Ordinance accordingly.

Board Member Moshe Raitzik agreed, saying that the only reason that developers say that "vinyl fences are better" is because they are cheaper.

Board Member David Helmreich stated that perhaps in the future, instead of even forwarding such a request to the Board, the Board's professionals can simply respond to the developers that the Board is not interested in such a request.

Board Administrator Ally Morris responded that the Board's professionals can't tell the developers that the Board does not want to even see their requests.

Mr. Helmreich pushed back, saying that the Board does have a written policy defining the parameters of what they accept under correspondence, and, as "the gatekeepers," the Board's professionals can tell the developers that their "minor requests" can't come under correspondence and require a full blown Amended Site Plan application instead.

Mr. Neiman agreed that such design changes need to be presented with a full Amended Site Plan.

Ms. Morris responded that when the requested change requires the granting of a variance then the Board's professionals can comfortably demand that an Amended Site Plan be submitted, however, as vinyl fencing vs. masonry enclosures only requires a design waiver, the Board's professionals have a much more difficult battle when saying that an Amended Site Plan be submitted.


At the end of the day, the Board compromised that they will grant the instant request only for the vinyl fence around the trash enclosure, but not to eliminate the vinyl fence between the properties.

Ms. DiStefano tried nudging the Board that the shul already purchased the neighboring lot so constructing a fence would be "a waste and possibly contradictory" as the shul will end up using the lot for some sort of expansion.

The Board suggested that until the shul submits a Site Plan for whatever they want to do with that adjoining lot, they should install a temporary fence.

Ms. DiStefano then admitted that it really would not be cost‐efficient to install a fence as they are already using that lot for overflow parking.

The Board retorted right back that using that lot for parking requires Site Plan approval from the Board.

At the end, the Board granted only the trash enclosure change but not to eliminate the required fence until the Board knows what's going to be there (i.e. until they return with a Site Plan for that adjoining lot).

The shul will not be able to get a final Certificate of Occupancy until they construct the required fence.

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