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Spruce Street residents - who were represented by Teaneck Attorney Jan Meyer - scored a victory this Monday night when the Lakewood Zoning Board resoundly denied developer Menachem Gutfreund's Appeal # 4281 which sought approval to construct 6 single family lots where only 1.5 homes are permitted.

This was the Board's third hearing on this application. This is also Mr. Gutfreund's fourth round of seeking land use approvals on this property. 

The saga began back in January 2019 when Mr. Gutfreund submitted an application to the Zoning Board for 6 homes on one lot, and 4 homes on the other lot. The Township's zoning ordinances permit only 2 single family homes in this zone.

Numerous neighbors flocked to the Board's public hearing to plead with the Board to deny the requested Use Variance.

Board member Obed Gonzales worked very hard to approve the application, so much so that when Abby Hirsch, a neighbor who was opposed to the application, stated that Mr. Gonzales should recuse himself as he had just started working for a company which was under Mr. Hirsch's control, Mr. Gonzales immediately announced that he is resigning from working for that company!

The Zoning Board ultimately denied that application.

In October 2019, Mr. Gutfreund submitted a "much reduced application" for only 9 homes on these lots. Immediately, the neighbors retained Mr. Meyer to file emergent legal action in Chancery Court objecting to the Board’s hearing the Second Application because, inter alia, of a conflict of interest involving Chairman Abe Halberstam and Mr. Gutfreund.

Specifically, a corporation owned, operated and/or controlled by Mr. Gutfreund was, at the time, constructing a home for Chairman Halberstam’s children!

Subsequently, Mr. Gutfreund met with the neighbors and he agreed to withdraw the Second Application. 

Thereafter, in 2020, Mr. Gutfreund returned with a revised application to construct 6 single family homes on only one of the lots, Block 837 Lot 1. This is a 60,000 sq foot lot so 1.09 homes would be permitted on that lot.

The neighbors were represented by Attorney Meyer who opposed the application and asked for a minor adjournment of the hearing so he could bring an expert to testify regarding the application.

The Board ignored this request, and approved a reduced plan of 4 single family homes on 15,000 sq foot lots each.

Due to his conflict with Mr. Gutfreund which was previously exposed in Chancery Court, Mr. Halberstam was not present at that application.

Subsequently, on December 8, 2020, Mr. Meyer filed a Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writs seeking to overturn the Board's approval. The four-count lawsuit included a charge that the Board violated the statutory requirements of notice and availability of documents set forth in the Emergency Remote Meeting Protocol for Local Public Bodies.

In January 2022, Judge Ford granted summary judgement to the neighbors and tossed out the Board's approval.

In February 2023, as first reported here on FAA News, Mr. Gutfreund again charged on with his development dreams for his property, with an application to the Planning Board for a 2-story plus finished basement child care center, with a capacity of 350 children. This application is for Block 837 Lot 1, which is the site of the 2020 overturned Zoning Board approval.

Child care centers are a permitted use in the zone and therefore don't require a Use Variance from the Zoning Board, however, the Township does not have a set parking requirement for child care centers, which gave the neighbors leeway to oppose the application.

As soon as the neighbors received notice of the application, they retained Attorney Meyer to represent their opposition. Mr. Gutfreund subsequent adjourned this application. 

However, relief was short lived, because, just a but later, Mr. Gutfreund submitted an application to the Zoning Board for a Use Variance for 6 single family homes on Block 831 Lot 1, which is across from the proposed child care center lot.

After holding 3 hearings on the application in December 2023, March and April 2024, on Monday night the Zoning Board ultimately denied the application.

At one point, Mr. Gutfreund was in talks with Township officials regarding the possibility of the Township swapping land so that the Spruce Street property can remain open space, and possibly even one day turned into a public playground, thus allaying the neighbor's fears of seeing yet anothet round of land use applications. Unfortunately, these talks have faltered.


Anonymous said...

Were any of the neighbors called antisemites?? Asking for a Jackson friend!!

Anonymous said...

Finally a dirty developer taken down