In quite a shocking development, following their previous denials of Yanky Lipshitz's Chestnut Holdings application, the Lakewood Planning Board is now planning to "lay down their ammo" and reconsider an approval of the application, FAA News has learned.

The current version of the proposal - which is his 6th attempt to secure an approval at this 3.7 acres site off Chestnut Street across from Evergreen Avenue - is for 13 duplex units (26 dwelling units plus basement apartments) and a playground.

Egregiously, while the Board purports to claim that the application is fully conforming, at the last hearing, area resident Aaron Hirsch highlighted that the application actually requires a maximum density variance which only the Zoning Board can grant and therefore the Planning Board lacks jurisdiction to hear the application. (This is because the parcel is 3.7 acres and the maximum density for duplexes is 8 units per acre, accordingly the maximum density is 29.6 units whereas this application proposes a total of 52 units including the basement apartments).

Back in June 2022, Jacob Lipshitz and Hersh Eissenberg of Chestnut Holdings NJ LLC submitted Application ZB 4235 to the Zoning Board to construct a cul-de-sac bulb with 14 duplex structures (28 dwelling units).

The application notice, published by Attorney Sam Brown of The Brown Law Firm stated that the new duplexes were a permitted use, and the only reason the application was submitted to the Zoning Board was because it included a single family home which currently exists, and is to remain, in the HD-7 zone where single family homes are not a permitted use.

However, as exposed here on FAA News, this was fake news.

The 4.65 acre site included Block 1077 Lots 43, 51, and 52, which are indeed located in the HD-7 zone, however, the rear yards of one side of the proposed homes cross into Lot 1 which is in the R-12 zone which does not permit duplexes. Accordingly, the application required a Use Variance - for which the applicant did not notice, thus the Board lacked jurisdiction to hear the application.

Following this exposure on FAA News, as previously reported here on FAA News, at the Board's public hearing in July 2022, neighbors opposed consideration of the application due to the jurisdictional issue. Board Attorney Jerry Dasti concurred, and Attorney Zev Brown agreed to renotice for a Use Variance application.

The application returned to the Board in September 2022. As previously reported here on FAA News, Board Chairman Abe Halberstam argued that he is concerned that the driveways of the 4 duplexes at the front of the Subdivision are very close to Chestnut Street, which will lead to too much congestion at the entranceway to the development where the boulevard will go.

Chestnut Street area resident Aaron Hirsch additionally opposed the application, noting that there was no proposed shul and the local shuls are already full.

Mr. Halberstam agreed that he wants to address the neighbors' concerns, and therefore this development - if it does come back to the Board - should eliminate the front units to make room for a proper bus stop, and also, a shul and playground should be provided.

At that point, realizing that they were facing a denial, which would prejudice them from returning with a slightly amended application, Mr. Brown formally withdrew the application.

As the news was broken here on FAA News, rather than redesign their project to provide a shul and playground, the developers cut out the "forbidden R-12 area" from the project, thus precluding any need to return to the Zoning Board.

Instead, they submitted an application to the Planning Board for only 26 units on the now reduced 3.70 acres site. As each lot was redesigned to contain exactly 8,500 sq feet, the application did not require any conditional use relief.

At the Board’s first hearing on the application, the Board expressed concern with the number of units all squeezed onto one cul-de-sac with no secondary access road. The Board stated that it appeared that the application did not comply with the state’s RSIS requirements of providing a secondary access road for developments with more than 25 units.

Ultimately, the developers returned to the Board with a letter from RSIS which indicated that a secondary access road was not required. 

Yet, thanks to heavy opposition from the neighbors the Board continued to pushback against the application, telling the applicants that they needed to provide a playground. 

After continued pushing from the Board and neighbors, the applicant's professionals offered to eliminate one house (i.e. one side of a duplex unit) to provide open space for the new development. The Board did not waiver, but rather insisted that they can not approve the application without an actual shul and playground, and without the boulevard being extended all throughout the entire roadway. 

Amazingly, just at that point the Board reinterpreted the Township's Open Space Ordinance to count basement apartments as a separate unit. Based on this new interpretation, the Board found that the Chestnut Holdings application did not comply with this Ordinance as it did not provide open space for 56 units. 

After the applicant refused to provide an actual shul and playground, the Board declined to grant a design waiver to provide relief from providing the required Open Space, and voted to deny the application.

Subsequently, as previously reported here on FAA News, the developers, represented by Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq., filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Board's denial.

At trial, Board Attorney John Jackson emphasized to Judge Hodgson the importance of open space in Lakewood, and that "a certain quality of life in the town that cannot be ignored simply because an applicant seeks to provide for double the amount of people in a development."

Mr. Pfeffer argued that he disagreed with the Board's reinterpretation of the open space requirement, and that the developers did offer at the public hearing (and are still willing to offer) to dedicate one lot for open space based on the calculations of 28 units - but not based on 56 units.

Judge Hodgson brushed him off saying that the Board has the legal right to interpret the Township's ordinances and in this case the Board properly determined that this is considered 56 units for the purposes of counting open space.

Mr. Pfeffer tried arguing that as far as "zoning" is concerned this is only a 28 unit subdivision. He added that "there is no guarantee that the future homeowners will use their basements for separate apartments. I know plenty of people who have large families and use their basements for their own families." Judge Hodgson pushed back, saying that the Board does have leeway to interpret the basement apartments in terms of the open space requirement even though in terms of "zoning" this may be only a 28 unit subdivision.

Accordingly, Judge Hodgson declined to toss out the Board's denial of the application. 

(This ruling has major ramifications for Lakewood. Going forward, developers will not be able to challenge the planning board's determination on the matter.)

Facing this court ruling, back in April 2024, the developers returned to the Board seeking approval for 13 duplex structures (26 units plus basement apartments) and a 8,191 sq foot playground which will be dedicated to a HOA.

Area residents again urged the Board to deny the application due to traffic congestion and the lack of a shul.

Resident Aaron Hirsch added that the application required a Density variance which only the Zoning Board could grant, therefore the Planning Board lacked jurisdiction to hear the application. This is because the parcel is 3.7 acres and the maximum density for duplexes is 8 units per acre, accordingly the maximum density is 29.6 units whereas this application proposes a total of 52 units).

As previously reported here on FAA News, thanks to this continued pressure, the Board held strong and voted 3-2 to deny the application.

However, subsequently, when it came time to adopt the Resolution of Denial, Chairman Moshe Neiman (who was one of the "no" voters) announced that he wants to reconsider and change his vote to a "yes."

Mr. Pfeffer was delighted.

The Board deliberated whether it was appropriate to change the vote with no notice to the public who had previously come out strongly in opposition to the application.

Ultimately, the Board decided to reschedule the matter as a reconsideration hearing only after the neighbors receive notice.

The neighbors have now received notice for a reconsideration hearing of the application which will be held this Tuesday, June 18, 2024.

It is anticipated that a large crowd of area residents will rush to the Board hearing to urge the Board not to change the vote.

The meeting will take place at Town Hall beginning at 6:00pm.

To join a FAA News WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA News WhatsApp Status, click here.


Anonymous said...

Do You think they got neiman in their back pocket somehow?

Anonymous said...

The ongoing situation with the Chestnut project raises serious concerns about potential corruption in our local government. The Planning and Zoning Board initially denied Yanky Lipshitz’s application multiple times due to legitimate issues like high density, lack of open space, traffic congestion, and the absence of a playground and a shul.

Now, Chairman Moshe Neiman's sudden decision to reconsider his vote after speaking to Adam Pfeiffer while previously opposing the project is alarming.

Our community deserves transparency and fair decision-making.

Anonymous said...

This was voted down when Moshe Raitzik was still on the board. Mr. Neiman would never have reconsidered this if raitzik were still up there. We, the residents of Lakewood, demand something get changed on that board so that trust can be reinstated. Flip flopping is not an Olympic sport... yet.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Multiple issues with this development -

1. First off ,major safety issues there ,in an already very accident prone area - big curve in Chestnut by Evergreen that really limits seeing anyone from crossing

2. ⁠Traffic - adding at least 60 plus cars to an area that’s already a traffic nightmare ( and adding a light won’t help with that )
3. ⁠No development should ever go up without a shul being built for them , period .( they would need one that holds at least 100 seats )
4. ⁠there should be a complete ban on building townhouses and duplexes and if they can’t do that then at very least none should be approved that need any variances whatsoever .

We just can’t handle the housing now with current infastructuee and yes people will have to move out farther .

I don’t want to hear that I have a house already so it’s easy to say that . That’s a ridiculous statement that all builders use and it’s just one big money grab

The township is so shortsighted that they shockingly don’t realize that the short term gain of the tax income is nothing compared to the financial impact that township takes when people don’t go out to shop or decide work at home because you literally can’t drive anywhere .

They constantly approve applications that tie up any artery that is still drivable and are quickly turning the entire Lakewood into a parking lot .

If this passes we won’t forget it come election time and the Vaad is going to be going up against the strongest opposition to their picks that they have ever seen

Enough is enough

Anonymous said...

@first comment, Neiman is a decent guy. They must have found leverage and put immense pressure on those that voted no.

Anonymous said...

@June 17, 2024 at 4:12 PM

I think he is a decent fellow as well.
That is why I am asking...
What happened?
Did they get leverage on him?
If so let him abstain or tell them to get lost.
Expose them....

Anonymous said...

Time for new blood on the Township Committee so we can have new appointees on the Planni9ng Board. Signed, Number 1.