On Tuesday night, Lakewood Township’s Planning Board adjourned hearing application SP-2519 for a major child care center on Spruce Street between Washington and Vine Avenue's, as the Board questioned the credibility of the developers' traffic report and decided to retain their own independent traffic report.

The application was submitted by 118 Ocean Avenue LLC, which is owned by Menachem Gutfreund and the PD Family Credit Shelter Trust.

Per the application documents, the 2-story plus finished basement child care center is anticipated to have a capacity of 350 children between the ages of 0-4. The center will include numbers special education and therapy rooms.

The Site Plan proposes 69 off-street parking spaces.

Lakewood Township's Unified Development Ordinance permits Child Care Centers for which a license is required from the New Jersey Department of Human Services in all zoning districts.

The Township does not have a specific parking requirement for child care centers. Rather the Ordinance requires as follows:

"Parking requirements shall be based on evaluating the following factors: the maximum number of children for which the site is licensed; the number of employees present during the maximum shift; and the operational plan for the drop-off and pick-up of children during the school day."

The application includes a traffic report by Dynamic Engineering which states that the center will have 54 employees present on the largest shift. "Based upon information provided by the applicant, approximately 25% of the staff is anticipated to carpool to the site. This would result in a parking demand for the staff of 41 parking spaces. Parental drop-off and pick-up typically takes approximately 5 minutes. This allows each of the remaining 28 parking spaces to turn over 12 times in an hour, or process approximately 336 vehicles in an hour.

"Further, it is anticipated that each vehicle will have approximately 2 children. Utilizing the maximum student population of 330 students this would equate to approximately 165 vehicles and as such the 28 drop-off/ pick up spaces will be more than sufficient to accommodate the anticipated parking demand," the report states.

Curiously, the report also claims that the center is projected to generate only 67 new entering trips and 60 exiting trips during the weekday morning peak hour and 55 entering trips and 61 exiting trips during the evening peak hour.

It is unclear how the traffic report can assert that each vehicle will have approximately 2 children which would equate to approximately 165 vehicles and that the site will generate only 55-67 vehicles during peak hours, which would equate to nearly 5 children per car!

Access to the site is proposed to be provided via a full movement driveway along Vine Avenue located approximately 50’ north of Read Street as well as a left turn in/right turn in/right turn out driveway along Washington Avenue.

The traffic report concludes "based upon our Traffic Impact Study as detailed in the body of this report, it is the professional opinion of Dynamic Traffic LLC that the adjacent street system of the Township of Lakewood will not experience any significant degradation in operating conditions with the construction of The Project. The site driveways are located to provide safe and efficient access to the adjacent roadway system. The site plan as proposed provides for good circulation throughout the site and provides adequate parking to accommodate The Project’s needs."

Curiously, when McDonough & Rea Associates - a local Traffic Expert firm which does most of the traffic studies for Lakewood land use board applications - submitted their traffic study on a 350 children center they claimed that there would be 106 cars during the afternoon peak hour.

It is unclear at this time how Traffic Experts determine how much traffic child care centers will generate.

The neighbors have retained Teaneck Attorney Jan Meyer Esq. to represent their opposition at the Planning Board.

Chairman Moshe Neiman highlighted that the proposed traffic circulation plan will have an entranceway from Vine Avenue and a right turn out exit onto Washington Avenue. "This will direct all parents exiting the site after dropping off and picking up to traverse through Lakewood Commons. This additional traffic will join the Lakewood Commons rush hour traffic," noted Mr. Neiman.

Mr. Neiman questioned the credibility of the developers' traffic report and announced that the Board will retain their own independent traffic report to give the Board the full picture of what's going on here.

The child care center application will be tabled at least until August to give the Board time to procure their own traffic report.

Mr. Neiman added that the Board intends to procure their own traffic report for future applications which are of this scope.

This site has quite a contentious history.

This is Mr. Gutfreund's fifth round of seeking land use approvals on this property. This will also be the neighbor's fifth round of objecting to 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.

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, Mr. Gutfreund again charged on with his development dreams for his property, but as a different use and before a different board.

This application was to the Planning Board for a 2-story plus finished basement child care center, with a capacity of 350 children.

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

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

Mr. Gutfreund is now returning to the Planning Board with his child care center proposal.

This is Mr. Gutfreund's fifth round of seeking land use approvals on this property. This will also be the neighbor's fifth round of objecting to land use approvals on this property.

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.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Traffic study should be in September and not August when a lot of people are on vacation.