After an initial hearing held late last year, the owner of the former Temple Beth Or property in Brick Township has postponed two appearances before the township’s zoning board, as the private, religious high school at the site remains shuttered pending the outcome. No dates are current scheduled, officials said this week.
The hearing began in December, as Congregation Kehilos Yisroel, a religious organization led by Lakewood developer David Gluck, seeks to legitimize the school to comport with zoning codes. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish high school began operating without permits last year after CKY purchased Temple Beth Or, a mainstream conservative Jewish temple that had occupied the space since 1976. Schools are a conditional use within the residential zone in which the property is located, and its owners have acknowledged they cannot meet the conditions set forth in the zoning ordinance and are seeking a conditional use variance.
Residents have strongly objected to the operation of a school in a residential neighborhood, saying it will bring traffic and too much activity. There have also been allegations of so-called “blockbusting” tactics being utilized by real estate investors in the neighborhood in an attempt to steer home sales to members of the Orthodox Jewish community. Residents say they have been inundated with mailers, phone calls and, in some cases, door-to-door solicitations to sell their homes.
Many residents have been puzzled as to why the application before the zoning board seemingly stopped in its tracks after the last hearing date was postponed March 30. The reason, Mayor John Ducey explained this week after being asked by a resident, is a lack of funds in CKY’s escrow account that is maintained with the township.
“They had a hearing … and then that was it,” said Ducey.
When a developer has an application pending before one of Brick’s two land use boards (planning or zoning) they must place funds in a municipal escrow account so the township can pay its professionals to review the application. The professionals could include traffic consultants, an outside engineer or planner, an environmental consultant or another specialized area as needed. CKY does not have sufficient funds in its account.
“You won’t get another hearing date until those escrows are filled, so there is no pending hearing date or anything like that right now,” said Ducey. “The school remains closed under the court order.”
A separate case involving Gluck’s ownership of a home at 91 Hendrickson Road, about a block away from the proposed school, remains pending after a number of adjournments. That case revolves around a summons issued to Gluck for allegedly overcrowding the home to use it as a dormitory. Gluck has since sold that property and another nearby home to a private owner.