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Ocean County officials have just inexplicably closed their eyes to a massive leeway which will allow a total of 172 new homes to be built sooner at Cross Street and Massachusetts Avenue, FAA News has learned.

On March 6, 2018, Yehuda Dachs, using the applicant name Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah, filed an application with the Lakewood Planning Board for an Educational Campus adjacent to the existing Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah location on Massachusetts Avenue. The application proposed a campus with a 3-story yeshiva building, 38 dormitory rooms, 6 townhomes and a 4-story Multi-Family building with 264 apartments.

Under the Township's Educational Campus ordinance, this entire campus, including the residential apartments would need to be owned and developed "only by an institution of higher education and not by or in partnership or in other arrangement with any investor group, construction company, a not for profit entity or any other third party." The Ordinance specifies that an eligible "institution of higher education" needs to be "a not for profit institution of higher education that is a not for profit entity that is fully accredited and licensed by the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education of the State of New Jersey and one that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees and is devoted to higher education and no other forms of education." Additionally, the Ordinance requires that the housing units on campus must be "proportionate to the educational facilities and that are intended only for faculty and students who will attend or staff the institution's educational facilities and that is adjoining to or within 500 feet of faculty and student housing so as to create a unified campus setting."

At the time that this application was initially presented to the Board, it was represented by Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq. At that point the Board tabled it, arguing that the Educational Campus ordinance required the campus to be owned and developed by a school which is accredited to give a Master's Degree, which Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah is not.

Subsequently, in July 2018, Lakewood's Township Committee adopted Ordinance 2018-35 which says: "In all Residential Zoning districts, any tract for which a complete application for a Planned Educational Campus has been filed with the Lakewood Planning Board... re-approval for development of that tract shall be conditionally permitted in accordance with the provisions of the R-7.5 District."

In other words, a developer who previously filed a complete application for a Planned Educational Campus may now resubmit for single family homes on 7,500 sq foot lots or duplexes on 10,000 sq foot lots.

The Educational Campus application was finally brought back to the Planning Board on March 3, 2020. At that point, Dachs upped his game and retained Attorney John Doyle Esq. who asserted that a more intense reading of the Ordinance shows that "the land and all structures including dwelling units shall be owned and developed" by an eligible school, however, this does not preclude Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah from presenting an application to the Planning Board because, they can later apply to the state to be approved to grant Graduate Degrees.

Just before the Board voted on the matter, Mr. Pfeffer told the Board that they really don't have any plans to build the Educational Campus, rather, they just need the Board to vote that their Educational Campus application is "a complete application" so they could be eligible under the July 2018 Ordinance to re-submit for duplexes.

Despite Board Attorney John Jackson's advice that they do have latitude to deny to hear the application, and despite hearing directly from Mr. Pfeffer that if they vote that this a "complete application" they will soon see an application for a bunch of duplexes, the members of the Planning Board voted, 4-3, to consider this a "complete application."

True to his word, Mr. Pfeffer was soon back with an application for duplexes.

On July 6, 2021, Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah presented plans for 72 duplex units and a shul. The Board required considerable upgrades to the plan to provide for internally connected roads and pedestrian sidewalks throughout the entire development. The final approval is for 60 duplex units, 11 single family homes, a shul (with 45 spaces and a restriction that there would be no catering hall), and multiple open space tot lots and a gated playground with play equipment.

The Board further required the developer to install benches along Cross Street and Keystone Drive in the open space areas, and to install fencing around the shul so vehicles cannot park on Cross and Massachusetts.

Importantly, the internally connected roadways will provide access to both Cross Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

NJDEP rules for the CAFRA-zone in Lakewood require a CAFRA application in "a development... that would result, either solely or in conjunction with a previous development, in a residential development having 75 or more dwelling units."

This development on its own does have less than 75 dwelling units. However, it adjoins an additional 101 dwelling units.

On November 24, 2020, the Township Planning Board approved Moshe Mendlowitz's application to develop a portion of another previously designated Educational Campus with 60 duplex units and 1 single family home. Soon there after, on January 5, 2021, Mr. Mendlowitz presented plans to the Planning Board to develop an additional portion of the previously designated Educational Campus with 40 duplex units. All together this is 101 duplex units.

When the Ocean County Planning Board originally granted contingent approval to these two applications on January 19, 2022. At that point the contingencies included a major condition that the applicant submit a copy of the CAFRA permit or a Jurisdictional Determination letter from the NJDEP.

CAFRA permits are costly and take multiple years, so by the County determining that these developments require a CAFRA permit, and withholding advancing County approval until a CAFRA permit is submitted, the County placed a major stumbling block in the way of this development turning to fruition.

However, subsequently, as previously reported here on FAA News, at the urging of Glenn Lines of NewLines Engineering, the County agreed to retract their requirement for the applicant to submit a CAFRA permit.

Now once again, the Ocean County Planning Board let a major development advance with no requirement for a CAFRA application.

The County just granted contingent approval to the Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah application with no condition that they submit an application to CAFRA.

This leeway, which appears to be quite very questionable, will pave the way for these 172 homes to be built much sooner than previously anticipated.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Yehuda Dachs is also asking the Planning Board to reconsider his application for an additional 125 housing units on James Street and Cross Street.

However, the item will not be heard at tonight's public hearing as the Board is holding off on dealing with this application until Tuesday, November 14 - after Election Day.

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Anonymous said...

I thought CAFRA was only required if it's the same owner of the property. So the 100 would need it but not the 72.

Chaim Kleinman said...

@Anon 6:31

This is what I found in the DEP regulations:

contiguous parcels shall include, but not be limited to, those land areas which directly abut or are separated by a general access roadway or other right-of-way, including waterways, OR those land areas which are part of a subdivision existing and under common ownership on or after September 19, 1973.

i. The construction of any residential or commercial development on contiguous parcels of property, regardless of present ownership, where there is a proposed sharing of infrastructure constructed to serve those parcels including, but not limited to, roads, utility lines, drainage systems, open spaces or septic drain fields.

In this case, the Planning Board's conditions of approval require that the roads be shared. Therefore the 72 units should also require a CAFRA permit.