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Jackson Township's Zoning Board on Wednesday night denied Rabbi Avrohom Matzliach's application to "change the use of his detached garage to habitable space of the residence, as well as to construct a small, 320 square feet addition to the garage to include a bathroom and storage area."

The Board previously affirmed the Zoning Officer's determination that the detached garage could not be used for a shul without a Use Variance.

The Matzliach's returned to the Board tonight saying they were now simply seeking approval to expand the detached garage to be used for "additional living space for the extended family," and not for any shul use.

After neighbors spoke up, stating that the garage is already being used for a garage, the Board denied the application, saying that their new testimony was "inconsistent with their previous testimony."

The Matzliach's live at 28 Ashford Road.

The Matzliach's previously submitted a request to Zoning Officer Jeffrey Purpuro to use their existing detached garage building as a recreation area for their family and as an area for home worship.

Mr. Purpuro denied this request, saying that home worship is only permitted inside a home or inside an attached garage, but not in a detached garage.

Following Mr. Purpuro denial of this request, the Matzliach's, represented by Attorney Christopher K. Costa, Esq of Storzer & Associates, P.C., presented an appeal to the Township's Zoning Board seeking for them to overturn the zoning officer's decision on the basis that it was incorrect.

Mr. Costa told the Board that a significant body of case law upholds the right of religious leaders to carry out a broad range of religious activities, including worship services, in their home.

Mr. Purpuro did not deny this fact, however, he opined that the Township's ordinances only permits home worship inside a home or inside an attached garage, but not in a detached garage.

Mr. Costa argued that the detached garage is an accessory use to the home and therefore there is no difference in permitting worship in an attached garage or a detached garage, and therefore the Zoning Officer incorrectly denied his application and the Board should right the wrong and approve the application.

The garage addition, which is in their rear yard, does not have any existing non-conformities, nor does it seek and bulk variances.

Excluding the family members, the Matzliach's intend to host 20-25 people at their minyanim which would be held only Sunday through Friday, application documents show. Rabbi Matzliach admitted under direct testimony that there are often cars parked on the road due to his shul.

Board members argued back that they do not see any difference between a "home worship" and a "House of Worship" and therefore, at the very least, it's "a residential home with an intensified use," and therefore, Site Plan review, including for sufficient parking, should be required as a real shul building.

Stressing that this application was only for an appeal of the Zoning Officer's determination as to whether or not this is a permitted use, and that the principal use of the structure will remain for residential use, Mr. Costa pushed back, saying that they do not require any Site Plan review.

Board members did not agree, and opined that there is indeed a difference between prayer inside of a home and inside a detached garage as case law of Farhi vs. Commissioners of Deal only permitted home worship because "Rabbi Farhi has converted a portion of the main floor of his home for a specific use during these religious services," - whereas this is a case of a detached garage.

Board Member James Hurley added that their argument is that prayer should be permitted in a detached garage just as inside the home because the two are equal, however, Jackson Township's ordinances consider a detached garage an accessory use which is permitted for storage and parking - neither of which are proposed here, and therefore he disagrees that anything permitted inside of a home should also be permitted in a detached garage.

He added that all of their complaints are constitutional, which is for a court to determine, and not something that we can consider as we review applications under the purview of zoning ordinances.

The Board voted unanimously to uphold the Zoning Officer's determination that the use of a shul is not permitted and requires a Use Variance.

Instead of applying for a Use Variance for a shul, the Matzliach's now presented an application to the Board for a Use Variance to change the use of the detached garage to habitable space of the residence, and for a small addition to the garage of 320 square feet to include a bathroom and storage area.

Mrs. Hana Matzliach told the Board that this new application is unrelated to the previously denied shul use, and it is only to permit for the detached garage to be used for "additional living space for the extended family."

Numerous neighbors spoke up in opposition to the application, stating that its real purpose is to expand the shul.

The Matzliach's attorney responded that this application is simply for an "accessory residential use," and not for any "new use."

However, Board members shot back that "the neighbors are saying otherwise," and more importantly, "there are extreme inconsistencies from your testimony at the last meeting."

The Board then denied the application.

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