The developer of a private, religious high school that has been shuttered since the summer after operating illegally without proper permits has submitted a site plan and a traffic study – copies of which were obtained by Shorebeat and embedded in this article – prior to a hearing scheduled for next week.
Congregation Kehilos Yisroel, controlled by real estate developer David Gluck, is seeking to legitimize the use of the former Temple Beth Or property as a private boys’ high school that will educate the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community – primarily students from Lakewood, its principal testified previously. A Superior Court judge earlier this year ordered the school shut down after Brick Township sued following the school’s refusal to cooperate with zoning and code officials. The school must obtain a conditional use variance from the Board of Adjustment, often referred to colloquially as the zoning board, in order to legally operate in a residential zone. The property is currently authorized to operate only as a house of worship. A marathon hearing in December kicked off what is expected to be a hearing that will span multiple meetings, at which board members requested a formal site plan and traffic study be submitted prior to the second meeting, set for Feb. 16.
Those two reports have been submitted. Expectedly, the traffic study supports the school’s application, however residents who are standing in opposition to the school use are expected to be represented by an attorney who may present their own studies in response.
The documents submitted to the township include updated layouts of the site which call for driveway entrance improvements, a sidewalk that extends around the corner of the property to Route 70, and a fenced-off play area with landscaping along Van Zile Road.
The traffic study was conducted by Dynamic Traffic, based in Lake Como. The study, backed up by testimony, anticipates the school will serve 25 students in each grade level, for a total of 100 students. Additionally, each grade level is anticipated to have three staff members associated with it, plus one custodian, for a total of 13 staff members. It will operate from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for students in grades 9-10 and until 9:30 p.m. for students in grades 11-12. It is not anticipated that there will be any sporting events or similar activities.
The school is located on Hendrickson Avenue, the same street that funnels traffic in to the Veterans Complex, which houses two public schools.
CKY has proposed to operate five vans which accommodate 12 students each, for a total of 60 students. The remaining 40 students will be dropped off and picked up by parents. The traffic study estimated one car for every 1.5 students being dropped off and picked up. This will produce 27 trips during the peak drop-off hour. In total, the school will generate 77 inbound and outbound trips in the morning, 46 trips at the 8:30 p.m. pickup time and 47 at the 9:30 p.m. pickup time.
The study local roads “will not experience any significant degradation in operating conditions” if the school use is allowed.
“The site driveway is located to provide safe and efficient access to the adjacent roadway system,” the report states. “The site plan as proposed provides for good circulation throughout the site and provides adequate parking to accommodate the project’s needs.”
The case will return to the zoning board Feb. 16 at a 6 p.m. meeting to be held at Civic Plaza, 270 Chambers Bridge Road, due to the large amount of public interest in the hearing. Civic Plaza is home to the largest single room owned by the township government.
Variance relief is required because the property includes an accessory building within its legal setback. CKY, in justifying its application for a conditional use, sets forth its case that the site is appropriate for use as a school, while acknowledging it will not be able to comply with local zoning ordinances.
“The site is already laid out to function as a school,” the rider states. “As the site engineer will testify, the site will be able to accommodate the school use even though it does not comply with the conditions.”
Zoning board meeting differ significantly from most other public meetings, such as those held by the township council. Both zoning and planning board meetings are quasi-judicial, meaning the proceedings more aptly resemble those in a court room than council chambers. Witnesses must be sworn in, attorneys may cross-examine witnesses, and materials must be formally marked as exhibits. While public participation is allowed, the process is more formal: there is an opportunity to examine witnesses, then a separate opportunity for comment on the merits of the application. Only legal arguments carry weight – even for members of the public – as the zoning process is one which is beset by complex precedential law as well as statutorily-based positive and negative criteria that board members are obligated to consider.
A supermajority of zoning board members must vote in favor of application for it to be approved. The parties – CKY and Brick Township – are expected to return to Judge Craig L. Wellerson’s courtroom the following day so the court can consider the actions of the board and make a ruling.
Traffic Impact Study: