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The Lakewood Township Planning Board on Tuesday night granted Change of Use/Site Plan Exemption approval to Lev Avoth Foundation, Inc. to legalize operations of an existing yeshiva at 770 Joe Parker Road.

The architectural plans indicate that there is a bais medrash, two classrooms, and four offices in the building which contains two-stories and a finished basement.

The site plan depicts a parking area which will be modified to consist of six off-street parking spaces, including one ADA space and one electric vehicle charging space. The parking lot is accessible by two, one-way ingress/egress asphalt driveways.

The property is situated within the R-20 Single-Family Residential Zone. Schools are a permitted use. 

The application sought numerous design waivers, including from providing curb and sidewalk along Joe Parker Road.

Board member Yair Stern pushed back against the requested design waiver, arguing that sidewalks are important in Lakewood.

Engineer Brian Flannery, who was sworn to tell the truth, testified that "it would be a sidewalk from nowhere to nowhere." Mr. Stern retorted, "well one day there will be a 'somewhere' nearby."

Board Member Yechiel Herzl then cheerfully offered a motion to approve the application with the requested design waiver from providing curb and sidewalk. The motion was approved.

This sidewalk waiver appears to be the first of its kind for the Planning Board in over 18 months. It occurred just months after Mr. Herzl returned to the Board, replacing Moshe Raitzik.

(Of special importance is that the adjacent property actualy does have a concrete sidewalk, so this would not have been a sidewalk to nowhere, in contrast to Mr. Flannery's testimony.)

Lakewood Township's Unified Development Ordinance requires sidewalks in every Site Plan and Subdivision application. For years prior to 2019, the Planning Board routinely granted waivers from installing sidewalk on applications in the Industrial park due to pressure from the Lakewood Industrial Commission, who was pressured by the warehouse owners who were hoping to discourage schools from building in the industrial park.

The big change to this practice occurred in the beginning of 2020 when Mayor Ray Coles - who has a strong record on advocating for pedestrian safety - directed the Planning Board to stop granting sidewalk waivers on industrial park applications.

At that point, and until December 31, 2023, Mr. Raitzik served as the Mayor's Designee on the Planning Board.

As more fully outlined outlined here on FAA News, throughout his tenure, Mr. Raitzik was very vocal, always fighting for "how can we do this even better," and he especially cajoled developers to provide sidewalks on all applications.

In January 2024, Mr. Raitzik was not reappointed, and Mr. Herzl returned to fill his seat.

Is this a new sidewalk waiver a new trend setter?

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Anonymous said...

Yechiel Herzl is a disappointment. Why is the safety of our residents not a priority for him?? Why is handing out sidewalk waivers like it’s nothing? Why is he so unaware of the Mayor’s policy against this waiver?

Lyin’ Brian has a reputation to talk out of three sides of his mouth, and no representation he makes can ever be believed. The Board should have known better.

The Planning Board can still make this right by changing the draft Resolution before the vote to memorialize, to remove this ridiculous sidewalk waiver. Let’s hope they will own up to this bad mistake.

Common sense said...

YECHIEL HERZL doesn't belong on a planning board. He always tries to push through the most outrageous proposals at the planning board.
It was nice for a while without him as the chairman of the board. He seems to be getting very comfortable on the board now and he's going to be leading the charge on approvals which are going to get really bad and dangerous to the Lakewood community.

I pray Mayor Coles reverses the damage of him on the board, or the safety of our kids will deteriorate with his advocating for reckless approvals.

High Hopes For Lakewood said...

Indeed Raitzik was a strong advocate for pedestrian safety and it is disappointing that he wasn't reappointed. The good news is that he is running for Township Committee where the voters decide who they want representing them and not some back room deal makers. The fact that he put his name out there shows that he isn't done with being an advocate for Lakewood's needs. It is up to us now to vote him in so that the powers that be can't remove him from a position where he is helping at whim.