At their recent meeting on Thursday afternoon, Lakewood's Township Committee paid a lot of attention to Blossom Drive. All of this attention came at the request of the Police Department's Traffic Safety Unit, with the consent of the Blossom Drive HOA.

The big question is, where was the Engineering Department?

An even bigger question is, where was the developer?

This story highlights why it's so super imperative for the Township to withhold issuance of Certificate of Occupancies until the developer does everything he is responsible to do for the new homeowners.

The Township Committee introduced Ordinance 2023-036 imposing the provisions of Title 39 on Blossom Drive.

The Committee also introduced Ordinance 2023-035 prohibiting stopping or standing at all times along both sides of Blossom Drive.

The Committee also introduced Ordinance 2023-037 which makes Blossom Drive into a one-way street.

What does all of this mean?

Title 39 is the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code. It's the title of the Statue that regulates traffic on public roads and permits police officers to enforce those regulations.

The Township Ordinance indicates that the Blossom Drive Inc. Homeowners Association has filed written consent with the Township that Title 39 be made applicable to Blossom Drive.

The reason that this consent is necessary is because Blossom Drive is a private roadway and therefore Title 39 would not apply to the roadway unless by written requests to the municipality.

Title 39 is important here because school buses traverse Blossom Drive and they were having difficulty getting down the narrow roadway due to parked cars. The bus drivers asked the police department to enforce parking restrictions on the road. That's when the police department discovered that Blossom Drive is a private roadway and that there is no Title 39 on it, making enforcement out of their hands. The police department discussed the issue with the Blossom Drive Inc. Homeowners Association who agreed to file written consent with the Township that Title 39 be made applicable to Blossom Drive. Hence, the Township Committee has now introduced the Title 39 Ordinance as well as the no parking ordinance.

All this sounds like great work on the part of the police department and the HOA. The question is, why didn't the Planning Board have the foresight to condition their approval of this private roadway that the developer is required to file written consent with the Township for Title 39?

Great question! In fact, the answer is... The Planning Board did impose such a condition of approval! "Somehow" the Township granted Certificate of Occupancies to the developer despite him not taking care of Title 39!

Let's start back from the very beginning.

Back on May 22, 2018, Mordechai Finkelstein of 121 Somerset, LLC presented Application SD 2326 to the Planning Board for approval of 44 lots along North Oakland Street, Cherry Street, and the newly created Blossom Drive.

At the public hearing Attorney Miriam Weinstein Esq. and Engineer Brian Flannery emphasized to the Board that Cherry Street used to be an old broken down street with even older, more broken down homes, and one at a time, developers bought all of these homes so they could redevelop the entire block all together. Mrs. Weinstein and Mr. Flannery assured the Board that they were turning Cherry Street from "one of the worst in town into one of the nicest."

Along with redeveloping Cherry Street into a 32 foot wide road, the application included construction of Blossom Drive as a 24 foot wide, private, one-way roadway. This roadway was to be privately owned by a newly created HOA due to the narrow width of the roadway.

Mr. Flannery told the Board that they did not yet review their plans with Public Works, but that they were confident that Public Works would be able to fit their garbage trucks down Blossom Drive. Board member John Franklin, who used to be the Director of Public Works, expressed concern with the project, saying that it appeared that the roadway would be too narrow for Public Works. In response, Mr. Flannery assured the Board that they would meet with Public Works "after the Board granted their approval."

Mr. Flannery also told the Board that although the road would be privately owned, the HOA documents would clearly indicate that there is an easement to the Township so that buses and garbage trucks can drive through.

Board Attorney John Jackson asked if parking will be permitted on the private road. Mr. Flannery said "no, each unit will have four spaces so there is no reason to park along there." When pressed to install no parking signs, Mr. Flannery agreed to provide no parking signs.

The Board conditioned their Site Plan approval on the developer agreeing to install no parking signs along Blossom Drive and to apply to the Township for Title 39 enforcement on the roadway.

In March 2019, Mr. Finkelstein entered into a Developer's Agreement with the Township, through which he formally agreed to all conditions imposed by the Planning Board. The Developer's Agreement was filed with the Ocean County Clerk.

Mizz Construction was the construction developer of the homes.

On January 5, 2021, Simon Soloff presented Application SD 2443 to the Planning Board for an additional 10 lots on Cherry Street and along Route 88.

At the request of a member of the public, the Board conditioned Site Plan approval on the developer installing retroreflective street name signs, crosswalks along Cherry Street, stop bars, yellow paint on the curbs and brite sticks on the stop signs.

The Subdivision map for this approval was filed a few months ago. The developer has received final approval from the Township's Engineering Department, however they are still working on obtaining outside agency approvals including NJDOT approval.

So, um... The Planning Board did impose a condition that the developer get Title 39 enforcement. This condition could have been enforced by the Township pursuant to the Developer's Agreement. Even better, the Township could have withheld issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy until the developer signed off on the Title 39 papers.

But nope! Nada! Nothing doing!

Instead, it took lots of complaints to the police department and their coordination with the HOA to now get this done.

As a side note, this is another reminder that designing homes with tandem parking (a long, narrow parking space where two cars occupy the same parking space with one car in front and the other behind, commonly referred to in Lakewood as "stacked parking") often leads to homeowners parking on the roads, which causes congestion along our already narrow roadways.

As previously reported here on FAA News, the Planning Board has been taking a firmer stand to combat this issue.

As previously reported here on FAA News, the Zoning Board differs from the Planning Board on this issue.

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NOT MENASH said...

Someone at the township planning / engineering / construction department clearly hasn’t been doing their job.

It’s totally unfair that residents should have to put up with this nuisance for so long, all because a certain someone was asleep on the job. We deserve better with our tax dollars.

There are numerous other similar stories over the years where a certain employee was too lazy to do what she gets paid for. And at least a few of those have resulted in costly litigation for both the aggrieved neighbors and the township government.

And it’s all because our committeemen don’t care if certain employees do their job or not - just as long as they can get special favors on behalf of their friends.

Yudel Shain said...

No one is asleep on the job; they are fully awake.

When in doubt, follow the money trail!