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Lakewood Township's Planning Board on Tuesday night heard testimony on Sunset Road Sefardic Congregation's Site Plan application. After hearing continued objections from the neighbors represented by Attorney Jan Meyer Esq., the Board held off from voting on the application, and adjourned the continuation of the application on October 10.

This was the Board's second contentious hearing on this application.

The revised Site Plan presented to Board at this hearing was for the construction of a proposed two-story synagogue at 220 Sunset Road, with a building area of 7,600 sq feet. The architectural plans depict a main sanctuary of 2,900 sq feet as well as adjoining 748 sq feet cheder sheni on the first floor, as well as a 1,541 sq feet ezras noshim and 217 sq feet warming kitchen on the second floor.

Designing a sizable "cheder sheni" room next to the main sanctuary is a legal loophole to get away from parking requirements as the Township only requires parking on the main sanctuary room area and not on any "accessory rooms."

As such, the 2,900 sq feet main sanctuary room requires 30 parking spaces.

The shul's current plan is to provide only 2 parking spaces on-site, and to provide the remaining required parking spaces offsite at the shopping center to the southeast of the Sunset Road and James Street intersection.

Per the Board Engineer's review, the application requires variances for Aggregate Side Yard Setback, maximum Building Coverage, Buffer, and Parking Setback.

Additionally, the revised plans propose the parking lot only 2 feet from the front right-of-way line. This conflicts with most of the proposed Shade Tree and Utility Easement. Therefore, a design waiver is required from proposed street tree spacing since they can only be planted near the property corners.

The application was represented by Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq. and Engineer Brian Flannery, who indicated that they have an agreement with the owners of the shopping center to utilize some of their parking spaces. (Though, when the board attorney asked Flannery how many parking spaces were required for the shopping center's own use, he responded that he did not know and didn’t check the record for that information.)

Mr. Pfeffer added that they are also in talks with the nearby Yeshiva on James Street and they can utilize their parking lot as well if need be.

The neighbors spoke up, saying that they have many concerns with the current ad-hoc shul, including substantial illegal parking, trash not being kept in the refuse container, as well as many members smoking close to their property line.

The neighbors also heavily objected to the proposed off-site parking plan, saying that many congregants will park on Sunset Road which is already congested.

Mr. Meyer stated that the Zoning Board's approval for the shopping center required 250 parking spaces and they did not provide any extras to now share with this shul. Additionally, a substantial number of these spaces have been converted into truck loading areas for NPGS, so the parking lot is actually deficient in parking.

Mr. Meyer added that the shopping center already has a long-term agreement with a nearby Yeshiva to utilize their parking lot, therefore it's not very likely that they have a sufficient number of parking spaces to now share with this shul.

In addition, Mr. Meyer argued that because the shopping center received its approval from the Zoning Board, any changes to their approval have to be resubmitted to the Zoning Board and the Planning Board lacks jurisdiction to now hear this application.

Moreover, Mr. Meyer highlighted that there are c(2) variances being sought in this application, and, with respect to a (c)(2) application, the Supreme Court has stated in Kaufmann v. Planning Bd. for Warren, "no c(2) variance should be granted when merely the purposes of the owner will be advanced. The grant of approval must actually benefit the community in that it represents a better zoning alternative for the property. The focus of a c(2) case, then, will be not on the characteristics of the land that, in light of current zoning requirements, create a "hardship" on the owner warranting a relaxation of standards, but on the characteristics of the land that present an opportunity for improved zoning and planning that will benefit the community."

I.e., the Board can only grant the variances upon a finding that the benefit for the community substantially outweigh any detriments.

Facing these issues, the Board adjourned the application to October 10 to give their professionals sufficient time to review the shopping center's approval, their previous agreement with the other yeshiva, their use of parking spaces for the truck loading area, and determine if the proposed shared parking plan is plausible.

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ab said...

A shul serves the community, and therefore a community is served when a shul is built. The argument Mr Meyers makes is void. However the board is now scared of Mr Myers, and he has positioned himself to be hired for any and every person anti anything before the board.
As for the parking, they should make Sunset a no-parking zone. This will resolve the parking issue.

Anonymous said...

An the neighbors have a lot of cars so making sunset a no parking zone doesn’t do anyone any good

Anonymous said...


A shul should serve the community, however, having your driveway constantly blocked and people smoking in front of your door is NOT a service to the community!

Mentchlichkeit is also an important service!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand, there's a shul there currently. The smoking and driveway blocking will continue regardless. This isn't a proposal for a brand new shul. Seems they just want a more spacious shul so people can bring their kids and guests to daven.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:13,

It’s quite obvious that you don’t understand, as you readily admit.

They want to replace the current structure with a huge building so they can have an even bigger kollel and many more people coming to use the place that’ll cause a bigger parking/traffic nightmare.

Thinking about the neighbors doesn’t appear to be a part of the way the shul’s leaders go about their business.
What kind of mitzvah do you get when it comes through being mazik other people?! And what ever happened to derech eretz kadma latorah??

It was also a pure leitzanus to propose that over 90% of the required parking would be a few blocks away at the James St shopping center - which doesn’t even have enough parking spaces for its own stores and offices. In fact, the store owners were livid when they heard about this secret agreement to take away many of the spaces they need for their own customers.
Why are midos, issur hezek, and gezeilah of parnassah literally thrown out the window - all in the name of doing a mitzvah??

Woe unto us that we have fallen to such lows!

Common sense said...

It's before Yom Kippur, perhaps the people of the shul who now see the damages being caused to the neighbors should ask mechila, and perhaps the shul should seek a larger place which is more suitable for this size crowd to serve Hashem, which won't cause harm to it's neighbors. IMHO, the tefilas might be better received from another location if the minyan isn't hurting other people while they are utilizing the shul. The shul has obviously grown to a much bigger sized minyan and probably needs to find a more suitable location for all of the mispallilim, instead of doubling down and making it even harder & causing even more tzar to the local community. What do you think Hashem wants?
Gmar Chasima Tova to all

Anonymous said...

Sad to say the Lakewood zoning board is really bad. Approving things that should never be approved, not using common sense but rather seems like just if they like you or not. This lawyer has been taking the board for a ride and if they pass this proposal I think it is only against the lawyer. This board should resign (besides the newest member) and they should be responsible for damages done to previous cases.