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The Lakewood Township Planning Board this week finally accomplished something major - conditions for a secondary access road onto Newport Avenue.

Special mention to Board Member Yair Stern for reminding the Board that Judge Ford and Judge Hodgson have ruled that dormitories are not permitted in residential neighborhoods in Lakewood.

Extra special mention regarding Brian Flannery's invention regarding temporary school trailers.

Even more special mention to R' Chaim Zev Edelman for flip flopping on his presentation to the Board.

Back in March 2022, the Planning Board was presented with an application for a large child care center at 220 Newport Avenue.

The application, which was represented by Attorney Miriam Weinstein Esq., was contentious with numerous neighbors presenting pedestrian, traffic safety and congestion concerns, especially as many parents would be driving down the narrow road for pick-up and drop-offs.

Board Member Moshe Raitzik echoed many of the same traffic flow concerns expressed by the neighbors. In response, Abe Auerbach of Regency Development told the Board that there were "3 more schools coming to this area and we are actively pursuing several ways to get an additional entranceway to Newport Avenue."

Somehow, when the next school applications came to the Board, this "assurance" disappeared.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in August 2022, Yeshiva Gedola of South Jersey presented their Site Plan application. When the Board asked about the additional road. Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq. responded simply "I was not the attorney on that other application. The only other access would be from Jackson and that township would never agree."

And just like that, the Board let the Yeshiva application slide right by with zero provisions for an additional access road!

Additionally, as previously reported here on FAA News, the Planning Board approved Nachlas Bais Yaakov's Site Plan application on Newport Avenue without any provisions for the previously "assured" second access road after Engineer Brian Flannery pushed back, saying "there was discussion about doing a second exit onto Bellevue, but I don’t think that will help and Scott Kennel will testify to that. "

So... Up until now it's been "promises made, promises not kept."

Finally, this week the Board firmly said, "the buck stops here. We need to see some real live action!" Like real firmly said so. And got so!

Toras Zev High School presented Application # SP-2528 to construct a mesivta on Wenstrom Avenue.

The application was represented by Attorney Adam Pfeffer and Engineer Brian Flannery.

The 1.187 acres site currently contains an existing two story dwelling which will remain on the premises for a rabbi's residence.

The existing garage is to be removed.

The construction project includes a two story high school with a finished basement, a parking area with 18 off-street parking spaces, and a basketball court at the southern corner of the site.

The application sought the following variances: Minimum front yard setback (Wenstrom Avenue) as 50 feet is proposed where 70 feet is required; Minimum rear yard setback of 14.96 feet is proposed where 30 feet is required.

Already at the previous hearing on this application, Board Chairman Moshe Neiman immediately demanded to know what's going on with the secondary road we were promised.

R' Chaim Zev Edelman of Toras Zev flimsily attempted to say that "we chipped in with the other schools coming to the block as a joint venture. The Township is also involved and they even hired a special attorney to deal with everything."

The Board pressed on for some hard details about what road improvements this joint venture has in store for us, saying that "already last year we were in agreement that we will not approve any additional schools here without provisions for a secondary road."

R' Edelman didn't have much to answer. First he tried to say that he had some papers he could send the Board after the meeting. Then he switched the story that the Township are really the ones planning everything and he needs to ask them what's going on.

Mr. Neiman pressed on, saying that Mayor Coles previously sent him an email telling him simply that "the township committee is working with these schools... to ensure that appropriate planning is done to provide for infrastructure. To that end, we have engaged our engineers to examine traffic and roadway needs and we expect at a minimum to see road widening and at least one additional means of ingress/egress for local traffic. Any pending approvals at your board might be well served to reflect and acknowledge this effort..."

Mr. Neiman stated that the mayor's directive is for all "pending approvals... to reflect... this effort," and therefore the Board needs to see what "this effort" entails prior to approving any further applications.

R' Edelman argued, "I will have students either way. Currently I need to keep them in trailers. It's in your hands to decide whether or not I can move them next year into a real building."

The Board was not at all impressed and demanded to "be shown the hardware" before they approve the application!

At that point, the Board adjourned the application until this week.

At this week's public hearing, Mr. Neiman demanded, "I'm going to cut straight to the chase. What's with the secondary road?"

Mr. Pfeffer responded that "the joint venture work is still in progress. In light of the situation, we will agree that we can not request even a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy on the building before the secondary access has been created."

Mr. Pfeffer added that they will come back to the Board if they do want to get this condition lifted in the future. However, "you'll have the opportunity to review what we're doing there and whether or not we can show any real progress before you reconsider and lift that condition."

Board Member Bruce Stern emphasized that the secondary road must be a minimum of 32 feet wide. Mr. Pfeffer agreed.

Board Administrator Ally Morris told the Board that Fran Siegel, the Township's Zoning Officer, has relayed that temporary school trailers in this area have become a contentious issue, therefore the Board should consider placing any appropriate restrictions on the issuance of permits for trailers here.

Board Member Yair Stern agreed that the Board should restrict trailers as that will give the school leeway to shlep out getting the secondary access road paved since they won't be stressed by the restriction of not yet having a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy for their building.

Mr. Pfeffer responded, "we would ask that you not restrict trailers here."

Huh? That sure raises eyebrows, as Rabbi Edelman's original argument as to why the Board should approve this application despite not yet seeing plans for the secondary access road was that, "I will have students either way. Currently I need to keep them in trailers. It's in your hands to decide whether or not I can move them next year into a real building..."

The Board then discussed the Township's ordinances regarding temporary school trailers. Mr. Flannery claimed that zoning permits can be issued for trailers as soon as a Site Plan application for a building is submitted to the Planning Board.

This is quite an interesting claim, as the Township's Ordinance (18-906G) states:

The Township Zoning Officer may approve the installation of temporary portable facilities at the site of a school for a period not to exceed two school years...

Accordingly, it's quite interesting how Brian can testify that the Township permits obtaining permits for trailers as soon as an application for a building is submitted to the Planning Board.

Mr. Pfeffer stated, "we need trailers because we can't get TCO on the building until we have a secondary access which will take us some time."

Mr. Yair Stern shot back, "at the same time, I don't want you to simply stay in trailers and not work on paving the road."

Mr. Neiman added, "whatever road improvements we need, we need whether they are in a building or a trailer."

Ultimately, the Board approved the application with the conditions that they can get trailer permits for 2 years, however they can't get trailers for the first 6 months so that in the meantime they should seriously advance their road improvements plan. Finally, the Board stipulated that their current road needs to be widened to 32 feet wide.

The Board also heard Yeshiva Gedola of Monmouth County's Application # SP-2518 to construct a Beis Medrash yeshiva with a dormitory at 160 Doria Avenue.

The architectural plans which have been submitted depict a Beis Medrash with no square footage listed on the first floor, an Ezras Noshim with no square footage listed on the second floor, and a 2,332 sq foot dining room adjacent to a large 1,493 "kitchen/storage room." The building will also contain a total of 26 dormitory rooms spread across all floors.

The Yeshiva currently has 75 students.

An off-street parking lot with 10 parking spaces is planned for the project. Site lighting is proposed consisting of pole mounted fixtures and a wall light for the parking area.

The total tract of this property contains 2.2568 acres with an existing single-story single family residence, a shed, and an inground pool, serviced by an asphalt driveway.

The plan is for this residence to remain to be used for the Rabbi's residence. By keeping this residence on the same lot as the school, the residence will likely be tax exempt.

No curb or sidewalk currently exist along Doria Avenue but are proposed with this application. However, there are many proposed access points in the rear of the building without sidewalk access. Furthermore, no connecting sidewalk access between the street and building is proposed.

Streetlighting exists. There is underground electric on the road and natural gas is available. However, sanitary sewer and potable water are not present, therefore, offsite utility improvements will be required. New Jersey American Water Company approval will be required for this required work.

Stormwater management facilities, including underground infiltration, have been proposed for the facility.

Some landscaping is also proposed.

The site is situated in the R-40 (Single Residential zone). The use of a Yeshiva is permitted, however, as ruled here by Judge Ford, the Township Committee has deemed dormitories to be a permitted use only in a Planned Educational Campus which requires 3 acres of land.

Mr. Yair Stern said, "there is an elephant in the room here. The judge said that dormitories are not permitted in Lakewood. How does the Planning Board even have jurisdiction to hear this application?"

Board Attorney John Jackson responded, "Judge Ford did rule that dormitories are not a customarily accessory use to a school in Lakewood. However, we made a determination that because the ruling is not published, we are not bound by it. At this point, what direction the Board wants to take is up to the Board."

Board Member Justin Flancbaum echoed his words, saying, "we have discretion because the ruling is not binding."

Mr. Neiman stated, "that specific ruling was in a residential neighborhood. This isn't a dense residential neighborhood so I would look at things differently here.

The Board granted a variance for minimum front yard setback of 57.36 feet where 70 feet is required.

Mr. Yair Stern asked if they can squeeze in more parking. Mr. Neiman shot back, "bad idea, then we'll get a Kollel there." Mr. Flannery agreed to provide green area where cars could safely park if need be.

The Board approved the application with the same conditions as for Toras Zev, with the additional condition that there not be any rental catering hall.

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