This proposed 16,350 square foot house of worship would require
65% more land than owned to meet the legal requirements.
The structure would be too big, too high, too wide, too close to neighbors,
and without a major variance, would not be legal.

Contributions can be made to:
Connell Foley LLP
Attorney Trust Account
Please mail check to:
Connell Foley LLP
85 Livingston Avenue
Roseland NJ 07068,
Attn: Kevin J. Coakley
(Funds only distributed with consent of the Association's trustees)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BY HARRY TRUMBORE, EDITOR

 

The Item of Millburn and Short Hills

The Chai Center's site plan application to build a synagogue on Jefferson Avenue was rejected early this morning by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.


In a ruling that came shortly before 1 a.m., board members voted not to grant a variance to Rabbi Bogomilsky and his congregation to build a house of worship on 1.8 acres of property in a residential area.

 

In explaining his vote, board Chairman Joseph Steinberg said he asked himself whether the proposed construction met the 3-acre standard required to build a house of worship.

 

That standard, Steinberg said, "was not met, not met by a lot. I ask myself, what is the degree the proposed project deviates from the standard, then I ask myself, does it make a difference, and the answer I came up with was yes, it makes a difference."

 

Other board members agreed, questioning whether the property, was to be a combination of two residential lots, could accommodate the religious center.

More than 200 people attended the hearing in the Millburn High School auditorium. About 100 were still present after midnight when board members debated the application's merits.

 

The evening began with a surprise as board member Roger Manshel recused himself from the proceedings, which have gone on for 22 months.

Manshel, who had exchanged heated words with the rabbi at the previous public session of the board, said he was stepping away "in order to protect the integrity of this board."

 

"I believe the board can make a decision without my presence," he said.

More than 40 people spoke during the public comments session prior to the board vote.

 

Many were residents in the neighborhood who expressed concerns over traffic safety and the size of the propose structure. Members of the rabbi's congregation presented a picture of a small group of regular members and expressed the need for a site where they could worship. Comparisons were made by both sides to other houses of worship in the township that do not sit on 3 acres of land or have received variances for similar issues such as parking.

 

Steinberg called the application "clearly the most complicated case I've ever been involved in."

 

Following the ruling, the rabbi said, "We will confer with our lawyers and see where we stand."

 

He added that for the time being, he has a legal agreement with the municipality that there will be no interference with any Chai Center activities at the Jefferson Avenue residence. Although the Township Committee has filed a petition to void the agreement, Bogomilsky said, "We are asking the judge the dismiss it. The township has missed the last court date."

 

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Save Millburn is the name for the local, registered, non-profit group,
The Concerned Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township, Inc. - Email Help@SaveMillburn.com