Congregation Satmar (KJ) is proposing to construct a women's mikvah on East Kennedy Boulevard between Monmouth and Princeton Avenue's, two blocks away from their existing shul.

Neighbors of the proposal say "the size and scope of the proposal is simply too intense for this site" -and they've retained an attorney to oppose the project.

For their part, project representatives are flip flopping as to whether or not they consider their parking proposal to be sufficient.

Lakewood Township’s Zoning Board on Monday night heard appeal ZB No. 4313, submitted by Congregation Satmar of Lakewood, Inc. seeking approval to construct a 2-story, 16,017 sq foot women's mikvah building.

The project site has 15,000 square feet of lot area and contains two existing dwellings and appurtenances which will be removed to make way to develop the mikvah.

The subject property is located in the OT Office Transitional Zone which does not permit the use of a mikvah. Hence the proposal requires a use variance.

In addition, the Preliminary and Final Major Site Plan seeks numerous bulk variances. In the OT Zone, parking areas shall have a five foot solid buffer area if the adjacent property is residential. 3 feet is proposed). In the OT Zone, the minimum required rear yard setback is 15 feet. The application proposes 7.35 feet. The minimum required side yard setback is 12 feet on one side and 25 feet combined. The application proposes a sideyard setback of 5 feet on one side and a combined side yard setback of 10 feet. In the OT Zone the maximum allowable building coverage is 25%. The application is proposing building coverage of 35.4%.

Importantly, in the OT Zone the maximum allowable lot coverage is 25%. The application is seeking a variance to permit lot coverage of 72.8%.

Per the Board Engineer's review, the application also seeks a design waiver for landscape buffering as a minimum 25-foot buffer is required for non-residential development; as well as a design waiver from providing street trees; no screening is proposedwhere the proposed building area will adjoin adjacent residential lots; and several light intensities along the property lines of the residential lots are excessive.

Attorney Joseph Michelini Esq. representing neighbors of the project told the Board "my clients do not oppose the use of the mikvah, however they ARE opposed to the overuse of the property, the size and scope of which is contrary to the Township's Master Plan."

Mr. Michelini highlighted the substantial variance from maximum allowable lot coverage and emphasized that the site plan has "inadequate fencing and landscaping, and inadequate plans to keep the lighting and intensity, and simply put, the intensity of the site will disturb the neighborhood."

The application also faced considerable scrutiny by the board - as well as considerable flip flopping by the project's attorney - regarding the parking proposal.

A two-way access driveway from Kennedy Boulevard is proposed, leading to fifteen proposed on-site parking spaces (including one EV and one handicap accessible space). 

The architectural plans depict 15 changing rooms, which indicate that 15 women can be in the mikvah at any one point. In addition the mikvah will have approximately have 4 staff attendants. There are also offices and laundry rooms depicted on the second floor.

At her opening statement, Attorney Miriam Weinstein Esq. extolled the great need for an additional women's mikvah in the northern section of town, highlighting that the main mikvah on Carey Street is full "including with women from Howell and Jackson."

Then the Board reviewed the plans and asked how 15 parking spaces will possibly be sufficient.

Amazingly, Mrs. Weinstein enthusiastically responded "this is a Satmar women's mikvah, most of their women don't drive." Mrs. Weinstein also noted that the architectural plans depict a waiting room for pickup as they anticipate that many women will get dropped off and picked up.

The Board didn't buy this fantastic argument, noting that the main mikvah on Carey Street has considerably more parking spaces than this project.

Engineer Brian Flannery cheerfully responded "this is an inherently beneficial use and the benefits to the community are substantial."

Mrs. Weinstein offered that the second floor will not be fully built out at this time and will be left unfinished until such time that they return to the Board (i.e. with more parking). She also represented that they would grant a deed restriction to encumber the property solely for the use of a women's mikvah with an associated office, but no men's mikvah during the day or on Shabbos, no outside office space and no simcha hall.

The Board still pushed back on the proposed intensity of the site, noting the lack of privacy screening. Board Member Moshe Ingber asked "why is the building so lit looking so fancy, isn't more privacy screening more appropriate for the modesty of the women?"

The neighbors also retained a professional planner to represent their objections to the proposal.

The Board adjourned the application to September 9, 2024 to give the neighbors' planner time to present his case.

As was first reported here on FAA News, back in May 2023, Congregation Satmar closed on the purchase of these two lots for a total closing price of $1.45 million. 357 East County Line Road which is Block 141 Lot 12 was purchased from Yosef Brezel for $725,000. 358 East Kennedy Boulevard, which is Block 141 Lot 13 was purchased from Samuel Schachter for $725,000.

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Anonymous said...

um isn’t this supposed to be private not literally in peoples backyard. No tree buffers not enough parking.
Why not build a basement and second floor with the first floor as a parking garage?

Anonymous said...

They didn’t seem to have an answer what the basement or second floor will be used for
What is really going on