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There are a few key differences between careless and reckless driving. Mainly, while Careless driving is when the driver is unintentionally driving in a dangerous manner, the more serious offense of Reckless driving is when the driver knowingly drives in a dangerous manner.

Ongoing litigation reveals that the Lakewood Township Planning Board is staffed with a "Reckless driver."

The controversial matter at hand is Yehuda Dachs's application that would add 500 cars to the James Street and Cross Street area traffic.

Application SD 2511, filed under the name Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah (but owned by Mr. Dachs) sought approval to build a brand new residential development at the 17.5 acre parcel on the northeast corner of Cross Street and James Street with 125 duplex homes plus basement apartments. 

That is 250 families, and approximately 500 cars.

This zoning district does not permit duplexes. However, this particular application for duplexes was not seeking a Use Variance from the Zoning Board. As previously explained in a full background story here on FAA News, this is because the developer was demanding that he can rely on a loophole ordinance the Township Committee adopted in 2018 which states:

"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."

Back in March 2018, shortly before this ordinance was adopted, the developers of Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah filed Application SP 2291 to the Planning Board for an Educational Campus at this site.

This application was never actually presented to the Board at a public hearing, rather it was simply filed with the Board's administrative staff.

The developer was now attempting to rely on this Educational Campus "submission" as the basis to now be permitted to re-apply for these 125 duplexes on 10,000 sq foot lots (which would be permitted in the R7.5 zoning district) as a by-right application.

At their public hearing on the application, held in December 2022, the Planning Board delved deeply into the 2018 Educational Campus application submission to determine whether or not it was indeed a "complete application was filed."

Board Attorney John Jackson Esq. noted that in August 2018 the Board Engineer provided a written review letter of the application and noted certain items which needed to be addressed before the application could be considered for a public hearing. Since that time, the applicant did not submit any follow up on the outstanding items. 

Moreover, in March 2020, Board Administrator Ally Morris wrote to the applicant:

"Your application has not yet been approved or denied by the Board... In the absence of activity on this application... the Board will schedule it to be dismissed without prejudice..."

Shortly afterwards, Attorney Adam Pfeffer responded:

"The applicant is addressing the design waivers and review comments. We anticipate providing additional submission documents in the near future."

The yeshiva never did provide any additional documentation, nor was the application ever presented at a public hearing.

Board members discussed the nuanced wording of the 2018 ordinance, ultimately determining that simply "dropping papers down on the desk" is not enough and you need to actually go forward with your application and comply with the Board Engineer's review letter in order for an application to be considered "complete application... filed," and because the developers of the 2018 Educational Campus developers did not submit additional documents as required by the Board Engineer, that application was deemed incomplete and therefore they are now not eligible for "re-approval for development of that tract.. in accordance with the provisions of the R-7.5 District."

Accordingly, the Board voted that they lacked jurisdiction to hear this application as duplexes are not a permitted use in this zone and they are only permitted in accordance with the 2018 ordinance, which does not apply to this application.

Months later, Mr. Doyle returned to the Board, requesting them to reconsider this application.

Essentially Mr. Doyle's first argument was that there are two portions to an application, submission and hearing. "Submission" is dealt with by the Board Administrator and "hearing" is dealt with by the Board, and the Board cannot now mix up the two and decide they have jurisdiction over the submission process.

Mr. Doyle noted that when the applicant submitted the Educational Campus application, Board Administrator Ally Morris deemed it administratively complete. "Thus, the process regarding the status of the application was concluded at that point with it being deemed complete. There is no further statutory authority for the application to be deemed incomplete retroactively. Moreover, the completeness determination process is delegated by the MLUL and the UDO exclusively to Ms. Morris, and legally cannot be exercised by the Board."

Mr. Doyle also noted that State Statue provides that any application which is not deemed to be incomplete within 45 days of submission is to be deemed complete, and as their 2018 application was not deemed incomplete within 45 days, it must have been automatically deemed complete.

The Board previously made note that the Board Engineer cited numerous deficiencies with the Educational Campus application which were never corrected, and the Board used this as their basis to now say that application was never complete. Mr. Doyle now argued that State Statue requires applicants to "correct any incorrect submissions," but specifically provides that incorrect submissions does not mean that the submission of the application is incomplete.

The Board ultimately denied this reconsideration request.

Subsequently, in February 2024, as previously reported here on FAA News, Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse the Board's denial. 

In this litigation, Mr. Doyle is focusing heavily on Ms. Morris April 2018 letter deeming the application administratively complete. "Thus, the process regarding the status of the application was concluded at that point with it being deemed complete. There is no further statutory authority for the application to be deemed incomplete retroactively," Mr. Doyle is arguing.

A review of the record by FAA News has revealed that this letter deeming the application administratively complete should have never been given!

On April 3, 2018, Ms. Morris reviewed the application and sent back a letter with a list of missing items. One of these items was that a Planned Educational Campus is permitted only to schools accredited to give a graduate degree. Accordingly, Ms. Morris directed the Yeshiva to submit proof of their accreditation status.

On April 18, 2018, the yeshiva's engineer responded with some of the items requested. Notably, proof of their accreditation status was NOT submitted to the Board (because none existed). Obviously, the lack of this item should have been fatal to the life of the application.

Nonetheless, the next day, Ms. Morris granted the prized "letter of completion" which Mr. Doyle is now using in court against the Board's determination that they lack jurisdiction to hear the duplex application because the Educational Campus application was "never complete."

Quite some reckless driving indeed!

The fourth count of the complaint alleges violations of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. This count asserts that the developers are entitled to their civil rights of due process and equal treatment under the law, as well as their property rights to proceed with their application and ultimately the development of their land, and the board members violated the developer's civil rights by expressing that the Ordinance involved represented bad policy, would lead to a bad result, questioned the right of the Plaintiffs to apply as contract-purchasers, and ultimately tossing out the application with the claim that they lack jurisdiction to hear the application.

The Planning Board has brought in Attorney Michael S. Nagurka, Esq. to join their attorney John Jackson Esq. in defending them against this allegation. The Township Committee has brought in Attorney Kevin B. Riordan Esq. to defend them against this allegation.

Mr. Nagurka and Mr. Riordan have filed a Motion to dismiss the fourth count as to both the Township Committee and the Planning Board.

As 'tis is the season for hiring attorneys, Yeshiva Chemdas Hatorah has now brought in Attorney Donna Jennings Esq. to join Mr. Doyle in arguing in support of their Civil Rights Act claim.

The motion is now returnable before Judge Francis Hodgson next Friday, May 24, 2024.

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