Yeshiva Birchas Chaim, located at 1111 Vine Avenue in Lakewood, has just closed on the $1.4 million purchase of a nearby property, FAA News has learned.

The yeshiva was founded by Rabbi Shmuel Zalmen Stein in 2001, after his father, Rabbi Chaim Stein, asked him to open a branch of Telshe Yeshiva in Lakewood.

The contract property is north of the existing building, accessible from the Surf Avenue right of way, which is currently paved only from Vine Avenue until the yeshiva's parking lot.

The lot is 100x200 (20,000 sq feet) in area. No Site Plan has yet been presented to the Township for any future use of this lot.

The seller is Mark Properties, which is owned by the Krupnick family. Mark Properties purchased the lot in 2005 from Paul Coleman for $35,000.

Annual property taxes in 2022 were $4,723.74.

This expensive land purchase - relative to the size of the property - appears to have been done to settle a lawsuit which sought to stop the yeshiva's expansion project.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in November 2022, Birchas Chaim received Site Plan approval from Lakewood Township's Planning Board to expand with a Beis Medrash and dormitory building for approximately 85 bochurim.

Major contentions of their application was that they sought a design waiver from paving the adjoining rights-of-way of Surf Avenue and Mermaid Avenue, and a massive Front Yard setback variance to Surf Avenue. In essence, they wanted to build the new building completely in the setback.

When the original building was constructed, the Ordinance required a 45 foot Front Yard setback, and their building complies with that requirement.

Since that time, the Township Committee amended the Ordinance to require a 70 foot Front Yard setback.

Their new application originally sought a Front Yard Setback variance towards Surf Avenue of 5.61 feet where 70 feet is now required under the new ordinance.

Additionally, the application sought a design waiver from paving Surf Avenue and Mermaid Avenue along their entire property frontage.

Board members weighed in on both issues, opining that the roads should be paved and that constructing the building 5 feet away from the road is just way too close, especially as the area in back of the school could be developed by their property owners and then this school building will be extremely close to their road.

Abe Auerbach of Regency Development gave major pushback, arguing "Lakewood doesn't need more roads. Why are you asking a school to build a street that goes no where?"

Engineer Glen Lines added that likely no neighboring property owners would pave Surf Avenue due to the detention basin on the other side.

Ultimately, the Board granted the waivers from paving the roads, but ordered that the building size  be setback 15 feet from Surf Avenue.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Attorney Ed Liston Esq., representing Mark Properties, filed a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County, arguing that the Planning Board's approval should be overturned because, "the action of the Board, in approving the application, was arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable ultra vires, beyond the Board's jurisdiction due to the fact that the proposed project is not a permitted use in the zoning district, and was against the great weight of the evidence presented to the Board at the hearings held on the application."

As previously reported here on FAA News, Mr. Liston also alleged that "the public notice was deficient in that it lacked the specificity required under Perlmart vs. Lacey Township. Specifically, the notice failed to mention that the building proposed was to be used as a dormitory, which is not a permitted use in the subject zones and which deficiency also deprives the Board of jurisdiction to hear the matter."

As more recently reported here on FAA News, the Yeshiva settled the litigation out of court.

This settlement is significant as this lawsuit was filed following former Ocean County Superior Court Assignment Judge Marlene Ford's decision overturning Yeshiva Toras Chaim's dormitory expansion approval, on the basis that the Township Committee has not granted the Planning Board jurisdiction to approve dormitories (besides for in Planned Educational Campuses, which is only available to schools that offer a Graduate Degree, and with a minimum of 3 acres of land).

This settlement will permit the Yeshiva to proceed with their expansion project.

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