After filing two lawsuits, a Christian church in Brick Township has reached a settlement with the township’s zoning board and a final public hearing on the matter will be held in March.
The New Beginnings Christian Church, located on Brick Boulevard, asked in 2013 for approval of a conditional use variance to use the existing buildings that make up a Brick Boulevard strip mall for a house of worship, a teen center and thrift shop. Under Brick’s zoning ordinance, houses of worship must be located on lots that are two acres or larger. While the two lots that make up the proposal add up to more than two acres, New Beginnings representatives testified that they did not want to combine the lots.
Ultimately, the board denied the variances, leading to the filing of a lawsuit in state superior court. A judge remanded the matter back to the Board of Adjustment which, in turn, upheld its denial. New Beginnings then filed a federal lawsuit claiming its constitutional rights had been violated, which led to the pending settlement.
Under the settlement agreement, the church will create a cross-easement providing for the joint use of the two lots in question and provide for an expansion of the seating capacity of the sanctuary space from 250 to 325 seats. The township and church’s agreement provides for an agreed-upon parking plan and an area for shuttle buses to drop off congregants. Certain use restriction will be discussed at the meeting.
The meeting being held is what is known as a “Whispering Woods” hearing, named for a 1987 case before the New Jersey Supreme Court – Whispering Woods at Bamm Hollow v. Middletown Planning Board – which requires a revised application and full public hearing before settlement agreements between land use boards and applicants can be ratified by a public vote.
The hearing will take place March 2 at 7 p.m. at the township municipal complex.