Home Government Brick Residents Decry Traffic, Safety Woes at Church’s Zoning Hearing

Brick Residents Decry Traffic, Safety Woes at Church’s Zoning Hearing

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New Beginnings Christian Church, Brick, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
New Beginnings Christian Church, Brick, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

A group of Brick residents whose neighborhood is located adjacent to a start-up Christian church lined up at a Board of Adjustment hearing Wednesday night to voice concerns over traffic, safety issues and, they said, the fact that the church has been ignoring township zoning ordinances.

The New Beginnings Christian Church ultimately received approval from the board to operate as a house of worship in its Brick Boulevard location, a former strip mall, the result of a settlement reached between the church and the township after the church sued following a previous denial by the zoning board.

John P. Miller, the board’s attorney, said the settlement would help the township avoid paying high legal fees as well as having to grant the church all it wanted in its original application. After being denied variances to operate due to concerns over the size of the church’s lot size, occupancy, traffic and parking concerns, the church sued in both state and federal court. The federal suit, based on the Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act, was a high-stakes battle, Miller warned. If a judge found just a single count of the church’s suit to be credible, the township would have been responsible to pay its legal fees and grant its application without board oversight. The case, Miller said, was not a slam-dunk.

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“However well-reasoned the board’s opinion may have been, there were some procedural irregularities,” said Miller.

Under the settlement, the church will be allowed to have 325 people in its building at one time – the church previously did not want a set occupancy limit – and it will not be able to operate its thrift shop and teen center simultaneously with its religious services. Additionally, the church will be required to install buffers, including landscaping and fencing, and must place its trash and recycling bins in a prescribed area.

Residents, before the board voted, voiced hours of testimony on traffic woes in their Lake Riviera neighborhood – primarily portions of Lake Shore Drive, Huxley Drive, Virginia Drive and Essex Drive – citing clogged streets, speeding cars, shuttle buses blocking roads and church members taking it upon themselves to, seemingly haphazardly, stop and direct traffic.

The settlement does little to calm the traffic situation, the residents said. The church will have 93 parking spaces for its maximum 325 occupants, and shuttle buses will take additional churchgoers to services from nearby parking lots, including Offshore Pools and the Capri Institute, where congregants are allowed to park.

“My daughter was almost hit by a car, by someone speeding through, and

Zoning plans for New Beginnings Christian Church. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Zoning plans for New Beginnings Christian Church. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

now we’re adding a shuttle van,” said Huxley Drive resident Madeline Colagiovanni-Iannarone. “They’ve done everything they were told not to do. They’ve continued it. You can’t even have a birthday party in front of your own house because you cannot park there.”

“It’s simply an overburden on a street that was intended for a neighborhood of families where everyone had two cars,” said William Page, an Oklahoma Drive resident.

 

The residents said they realized they were near a business district when they moved in, but a small strip mall would never have caused the same traffic issues that hundreds of vehicles, all at once, cause by converging on the area multiple days per week. In some cases, they said, emergency vehicles would not be able to proceed down streets, and drivers have been forced to travel in reverse to allow the shuttle buses to move through.

“Traffic is flowing into our neighborhood, and flowing in all the time,” said Jonna Yahr, a Lake Shore Drive resident. “We all bought our houses there knowing it was a strip mall, not a church. A big, beautiful church is what they need.”

Mike Thulen, a former councilman, said the church has not always been a good neighbor, ignoring zoning codes and continuing to operate after they were denied a permit. Other neighbors said the property had been unkempt until shortly before the hearing.

Barbara Allen Woolley-Dillon, a planner hired by the church to present its case to the board, said locating the church in a strip mall utilizes a vacant property rather than using up more green space in town. It is also a trend in urban planning, she said.

“When you have a strip center, a lot of them, because of the economic time, they’re not filling up with professional services or retail,” Woolley-Dillon said.  “One of the uses that works very well, believe it or not, in a strip center is an upstart search. From a professional planning point of view, we as planners are recognizing that this is an appropriate use in the next generation of uses that will be taking over in these strip centers.”

Woolley-Dillon said the church’s hours are shorter than those of a retail store and do not have to receive constant deliveries of inventory.

Residents asked the board to place additional traffic controls on the church if the settlement agreement was approved, though Miller said granting only portions of the settlement’s variances or adding new stipulations would void the settlement and the matter would return to court.

At the request of Board Chairman Harvey Langer, church officials did agree to hire off-duty police officers to direct traffic during services and events, similar to how other churches in town handle traffic flow.

The settlement agreement calls for the settlement’s zoning provisions – including an easement effectively connecting two lots on which the property sits – and variances to be revoked should the church ever move or otherwise give up ownership of the lot. The settlement would also be voided if the church does not operate under its terms.

“The fact that the variance exists is a victory for this board,” said Miller. “It’s a measure the board felt would help to maintain the integrity of our zoning ordinance.”


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  • Big Cheese

    Way to fold Brick! Every time one of these “churches” doesn’t get their way they will threaten you and destroy another neighborhood. Wait until Lakewood gets wind of this.

    • JJ

      exactly

    • jo jo ormaz

      the question is, do you sell your home? foreclose it or turn it into a rental? there is no longer a quality of life left. people don’t think 5 or 10 years a head. they just focus on today, sad. were in green briar, we are beginning to see the change and we are not happy about it.

      • Big Cheese

        From what I’ve witnessed in Lakewood and what’s happening in surrounding towns, I’m already awaiting the knock on the door within 5 years. I’m selling because once they want an area, they get it one way or another. They will buy all vacant houses, put in section 8 renters who drive down the value and desirability of a neighborhood. You can either sell or wait for your value to decline. They just bought my house in north jersey for cash (asking price) and why I moved here last spring (lake riviera). They wanted the entire block and put renters in what they buy until they get the next house. Once word gets out that a neighborhood is selling they come in droves to compete for properties. You’ll have multiple offers.

  • jo jo ormaz

    Congratulations zoning Board members – everyone who’s on Board !!

    You have just opened the flood gates for Lakewood to take over the empty strip malls around Brick, community centers in rental and affordable housing properties that are privately owned!

    Get ready: RT88, Mantoloking road [empty strip malls there and new ones to come], Drum Point Rd. – Water side gardens, Brick Blvd, Jack Martian Blvd, Van Zile Rd, Burnt Tavern Rd.

    Here come the Yeshivas and Synagogue’s all over Brick. what will be the out cry then? “we had to approve it; because we are afraid that they will sue the town?”

    Congratulations people – great job.!

    Remember these Quotes:
    “the board felt would help to maintain the integrity of our zoning ordinance.”

    “shuttle buses will take additional churchgoers to services from nearby parking lots, including Offshore Pools and the Capri Institute, where congregants are allowed to park.”
    wow, so if a church can do it. now a Synagogue can now do it also; in Brick.

    • Mark Story Jenks

      I am under the impression that the orthodox have to live within walking distance of their places of worship.

      • J W

        Well, they need to be within walking distance first of all I guess, but more importantly they need to live within close enough proximity that the special magic ‘eruv’ wires are hanging overhead. those eruv wires connect every home and synangogue in Lakewood, and the Orthodox can’t leave the confines of those magic wires on a Saturday. As long as we keep this town free of eruvs, we should be fine. I, as a non-Jew, need to be able to be free of any pf this ‘eruv’ business and so should everyone else here in Bricktucky.

      • Big Cheese

        They will just start with the vacant storefronts and then look for houses. They came to Lakewood from Brooklyn. You think they won’t come to Brick from Lakewood? Toms River, Jackson and Howell are already seeing the change.

      • J W

        Brick is full of working class whites. You can ruin small farmers in the woods and squeeze poor blacks and hispanics pretty easily, but pissed off hillbillies? They don’t wanna do that. And they know it.

      • Scott

        JW can you back up any of your comments with facts or are the just your own observations? Love hearing every bodies opinions and anaylisis but it carries more weight if you can back it up with facts .

      • Big Cheese

        They are already buying in Brick.

      • J W

        Not in Herbertsville, Evergreen or Parkway Pines. And they’re closest to Lakewood. Either way… there’s too many of us for them to pull the same land scams and ruin us at the ballot box.

      • jo jo ormaz

        Take a look at Waterside Gardens, all they have to do is take 50% of the board or buy it out and build a community center. now that those Board members just approved a small “private church” in a residential and commercial area. It’s now ok for a synagogue to open and allow BUS SERVICES through the town. once those outside buses come in, the Board Of Education will get rid of their drivers and start the outsourcing.

      • jo jo ormaz

        The ortho’s bought – Waterside Gardens, was recently approved for basement housing by the Board. They currently have a variance for a 5000 – 8ooo square foot rec center [ AKA – Synagogue ] – waiting for approval. [ with bus services ] by the Board.

        Now by approving this church on brick bld. the town will be forced to bend over and allow every variance to be approved or face the “threat of law suits will come by black suits”
        remember those vacant – “suddenly can’t rent condos” ( going section 8 soon ) behind Shop Rite, now soon to be built 220 condos on brick blvd. The hotel on jack n 88, and wait, just wait – until you see what’s coming for those at Mantoloking road.

        People will be in for HUGHE awakening !

        (wonder what will come from the old pathmark next and what’s going on 88.?? hmmm chief wahoo, can you find out for us! 😉

        But remember folks – thank those who are in control and who approve things. you will hear their excuse, but the bottom line is that they all approved it!

        The sad part is, if these places were actually putting money back into the community; no one would care as long as our taxes lowered with property values holding. the majority would welcome it with open arms.

      • Scott

        Jo Jo what is the attraction of Mantoloking Road? Does not seem like a hot bed of activity.

      • jo jo ormaz

        It’s the “sleeper surprise”…. just thank those on the board all the way up to Mayor who is allowing this to happen. – all of this to happen. and I use to like the guy, now he has done nothing to stop it!

      • Scott

        Thanks for replying I guess but can’t comment on no info!

      • Kimberleely

        Sickening…..

  • J W

    Dear churches- you aren’t special. You can follow the same laws and ordinances as everyone else, but you can’t make your own up as you find convenient. I say challenge this in court and appeal it appeal it appeal it until the church finally gives up. There are enough empty church pews in this town already anyway. Especially catholic churches where nobody goes between Easter and Christmas. 8 months of the year, practically empty!

  • Smokin

    Forcing you to move out…the Times have changed unfortunately the group isn’t any better..

  • Smokin

    Let them move to vacant WOW building ..big and plenty of parking …and empty and an eye sore for years .

  • Stu Pidity

    I suggest that the New Beginnings Christian Church seek out advice from the inbred orthodox animals who have destroyed Lakewood. They pay no mind to any ordinances and get away with doing whatever they please.

  • Mike Thulen

    After making comments the night of the meeting, I would like to make a few more. The agreement the zoning board’s attorney made was without any further information from the neighborhood. Traffic and non compliance issues were brought up again and were not addressed in the agreement. The attorney pushed the fact if the agreement plan were not passed the township would have to pay for the attorney fees for the applicant. I understand that the council tomorrow night will have to pass the authorization to pay the clients attorney fees of $250,000. I am sorry but I think the township did not get the deal that was necessary for the benefit of the residents of Lake Riviera or the entire township. Perhaps the attorney should have left the zoning decisions up to the board, instead making a deal that was go or no go. This property owner failed to follow the rules for several years and then made a deal, that threaten to cost the township money, but they will probably not comply to; knowing that no one will enforce the agreed upon plan.

    • Andy Pat

      Until you admit that using your influence as a councilman to help appoint YOUR girlfriend to the BTMUA and the Planning Board was NOT in Brick’s best interest I will not give a modicum of credibility to anything you say!