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FACING HEAVY OPPOSITION FROM NEIGHBORS RETAINED BY ATTORNEY JAN MEYER, LAKEWOOD PLANNING BOARD TABLES CONG. TALMUD TORAH TORAS YECHIEL'S SUBDIVISION APPLICATION




Seeing heavy opposition from the neighbors - represented by Teaneck Attorney Jan Meyer Esq. - Lakewood Township's Planning Board tonight held off from voting on Congregation Talmud Torah Toras Yechiel's subdivision application.


Back in 2017, the Board granted minor subdivision and major site plan approval to Zichron Chaim, Inc for construction of a girls school on New Hampshire Avenue south of Oak Street.


Subsequently, the property was sold to Congregation Talmud Torah Toras Yechiel, a boys school. Additionally, the subdivision was never perfected and filed, and by now it has expired.


Congregation Talmud Torah Toras Yechiel is now reapplying for the same minor subdivision approval already granted to Zichron Chaim. (Likely they will return to the Board for a future site plan application on the Oak Street portion of the parcel)


The application is represented by Attorney Miriam Weinstein Esq., and Engineers Joseph Couciba of KBA Engineering Services LLC and Brian Flannery.


The neighbors are opposed to fact that the school has grown into some neighboring properties without Planning Board approval or notice to the neighbors. They are also concerned that the existing bus lane may no longer fit once the property is subdivided.


The neighbors retained Mr. Meyer to bring their concerns to the Planning Board by way of opposition to the subdivision application.


Ahead of the planned public hearing of the application, Mr. Meyer wrote to the Board:


Please advised that this letter is addressing a threshold issue related to the application.


Our client objects to the request of the applicant to rely on a prior application that took place more than 5 years ago. Quite a lot has changed as to the conditions in or around the relevant property as well as the use is also changed. We ask the Board to assure that full and complete testimony of the applicant be brought before the Board before any determination can be made by the Board on this application.


The applicant is coming before the Board with “unclean hands."


Quite a lot has changed as to the conditions in and around the relevant property, and in addition, the intended use is also changed.


Specifically, I would like to direct the Boards attention to the fact that there have been no construction plans (they do exist) submitted for the almost finished structure on the property. That may actually be by design, since the current structure is different than the structure the Board examined during the prior approval process, by the prior applicant (Zichron Chaim) years ago. The prior application stated that there would only be a two floor school facility with finished basement and an attic for storage, This is no longer the case. The structure is a three floor structure, unfinished at this point, but, now set up for real school use on the third floor as well (allegedly without a required sprinkler system installed on the third floor). The applicant must bring in advance of a hearing before this Board, the old preliminary construction plans and provide the actual as built or current construction plans for comparison before the Board allows this applicant’s hearing to go forward.


Secondly, the resolution dated February 20, 2018 granting certain relief also indicated that “should the property owner desire to use the basement for anything other than storage and mechanical uses, he agrees (to) return to the Board for approval of the change of use. This current structure is apparently designed for the use of the basement uses other than storage and mechanical issues. (It also begs the question, of why does a school need both a basement of 5,530 SF and a 3rd floor of 4,262 SF for storage.)


Thirdly, the change of use, is already intended to take place. The initial operation was a girls school (Zichron Chaim) and now it is intended to become a boys school with obviously different needs and hours of operation. The applicant must bring the school operator and the owner to testify as to the operations and management of the school. 


Fourth, the operator is also using the property next door on 1474 Oak Street, Block 1159.03 Lot 17 as a boys school - Tiferes Yechiel, - and in fact added another structure for the use of the school. We are making the inquiry to the Board, if such school use was approved located in the R-20 Zone? The initial and original intent was to use the property as parking for the main building on New Hampshire.


Fifth, the operator or applicant is using an additional property for school use located on the residential street at 723 Coral Avenue. Such unlawful use must cease immediately. Teachers and students are currently walking back and forth between 1474 Oak street location and 723 Coral Avenue through the backyard and crossing over the 712 New Hampshire property. It is a clear violation to use the residential property as offices and/or class rooms for the other properties. In addition there is a grave safety concern, since there is an open pool creating a hazardous condition and a violation of State Law. 


Sixth, the 1474 Oak Street school, Tiferes Yechiel, is currently using the 712 New Hampshire unfinished structure as a lunch room for the boys. This is a clear violation of both construction and safety codes. This could G-d forbid cause injury to the students and must be stopped immediately.


Seventh, the parking does not seem to be adequate, as well as the bus lanes and other school requirements are nowhere to be found in this application. The applicant must demonstrate that they are compliant with section 18-906 of the Township Ordinance.


Eighth, given the new traffic and commercial building in the immediate vicinity, a traffic study must be presented to the board. It is clear that traffic patterns and the impact from the area did change drastically over the last many years.


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At tonight's public hearing, numerous neighbors spoke up voicing these concerns. Mr. Meyer argued that in light of all of these concerns, the school's operators should come to the Board and explain the school's operations.


The Board told the neighbors that all of their concerns, which are regarding the existing school, are under the jurisdiction of the zoning officer and code enforcement, and not within the purview of the Planning Board.


As the neighbors were concerned that the existing school is in violation of their original resolution of approval, the Board decided to hold off from voting on the application for 30 days to give the neighbors ample opportunity to further review the existing site with Township officials to determine consistency with their resolution of approval.


This is not the first exciting episode regarding this application.


As previously reported here on FAA News, this application was permitted to be put on the Board's agenda despite that the Certificate of Ownership of Applicant was submitted blank.


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