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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Wednesday, Thursday February 9, 2012, 2:01 AM

BY LINDSEY KELLEHER

The Item of Millburn and Short Hills

 

It's that moment that proponents for and against the proposed Chai Center have been awaiting for nearly two years: to tell the Millburn Zoning Board their reasons for supporting or opposing a synagogue being constructed on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road.

The floor will be open for public comment at the Millburn Zoning Board meeting this Monday, Feb. 13, in what could be the last hearing for the proposed Chai Center.

 

Since the case began in April 2010, the Board has heard testimony from both sides, and reasons why Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky will need several variances for constructing this proposed house of worship on the lots of 1 and 7 Jefferson Avenue have been argued back and forth.

 

During the Jan. 30 meeting, attorneys Kevin Coakley and John Lamb, who represents Ciro Gamboni, a neighbor who says his property will be affected if the proposed synagogue is built, objected when the Zoning Board denied their response to a counterclaim filed by the rabbi against the township. Bogomilsky's counterclaim was in response to the township's complaint that he violated zoning ordinances and conducted a house of worship on his property without getting proper approval.

 

According to Sandra Haimoff, the township's mayor, no new developments have occurred in the settlement agreement pertaining to this complaint. The Item of Millburn and Short Hills last reported that a judge denied Bogomilsky's attorney in this case, Philip Pfeffer, a motion to dismiss a complaint filed by Township Committee attorney Michael Kates. According to Kates's complaint, Bogomilsky violated a 2009 settlement agreement to settle litigation he had with the township.

Also, during last week's Chai Center hearing, Paul Phillips, the township's planner testified about the different variances. Phillips contended that a parking variance was required because of the areas that need to be calculated. He argued that an acreage variance is also required. The township requires three acres of land for building a house of worship and the lot size is 1.8 acres.

 

Regarding accessory uses on a corner lot that cannot exceed 7 percent of the lot size, Phillips contended that only a design waiver and not an actual variance is required.

 

This past autumn, Bogomilsky's attorney for this case, Larry Kron filed an appeal against the Millburn Zoning Board and the Township Committee about the front yard setback requirement the Zoning Board determined would be needed for the Chai Center.

 

"The decision was wrong. The board considered one house as constituting an average," said Kron.

 

Kron is a partner in the law firm Nusbaum, Stein, Goldstein, Bronstein & Kron. Two other law firms, Chadbourne & Parke and Day Pitney filed this appeal along with Kron.

 

Since the Zoning Board has already voted and determined that a front yard setback variance is required, the applicant, if approved to construct the synagogue, will have to include the two properties that will be demolished when calculating the average front yard setback. The appeal is currently in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division. A decision has not yet been made by the court about the front yard setback.

 

Also, this fall, opponents of the proposed Chai Center testified that the lot size isn't large enough to support Bogomilsky's synagogue and the programs and services he wants to host at it. An example of this testimony is when state-licensed architect Michael Soriano from Cornerstone Architectural Group LLC testified that it's possible for 1,216 people to legally occupy the synagogue at one time. One figure that Soriano presented in his testimony was that 306 people could fit inside the social hall with only chairs set up, and 143 people could fit in this same room if tables and chairs were set up.

 

Soriano was called to testify by Coakley, who represents the Concerned Neighborhood Association.

 

At last week's meeting, Bogomilsky explained how many people would use each room in the proposed synagogue at one time. Using only the social hall and kitchen during a Kiddush brunch on Saturday mornings is an example Bogomilsky gave about how and when rooms in the synagogue would be used.

 

"We do not believe they proved their case and in fact believe that the expert witnesses called by our opposing group showed the negatives are too many to allow approval," stated the trustees of the neighborhood association, a grassroots group opposed to the Chai Center, in a press release this week.

 

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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