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)

Calendar of Events

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

BY LINDSEY KELLEHER

The Item of Millburn and Short Hills

 

Township Planner Paul Phillips was questioned by Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky's attorney Larry Kron during the Monday, Oct. 31 Chai Center hearing about a report he submitted to the Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment in mid-October.

In this report, Phillips made suggestions to the board about what variances he believed the applicant would need to construct a synagogue on the property of 1 and 7 Jefferson Ave. Phillips is the consulting planner for the township's Zoning Board.

 

Also during this meeting, The Concerned Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township, Inc.'s attorney Kevin Coakley called two witnesses to testify about the proposed Chai Center. The witnesses were a New Jersey licensed architect and a trustee for The Concerned Neighborhood Association. The Concerned Neighborhood Association, also known as Save Millburn, is a local, registered non-profit group consisting of people who are opposed to a synagogue being constructed on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road.

 

Bogomilsky is proposing to tear down the residence on his Jefferson Avenue property as well as a house on an adjoining lot and build a 16,350 square foot synagogue on the 1.8-acre lot.

 

At Monday's hearing, Zoning Board Chairman Joseph Steinberg read a summary of Phillips's report which was submitted to the board for review on Monday, Oct. 17. Phillips suggested in his report that Bogomilsky will need four variances for building the proposed house of worship, one for off-street parking, another for unoccupied rear yard accessory coverage, one for front yard set-back and one for acreage. According to Phillips, the applicant would not need a variance for corner yard set-back, accessory uses on residential properties or for conditional use on a collector street.

Kron argued that the Chai Center site plan application should be treated the equal to past applications for Congregation B'nai Jeshurun and Congregation B'nai Israel.

 

Regarding a front yard set-back and a parking ordinance, Kron grilled Phillips several times about whether these ordinances for the Chai Center should be looked at by the board in the same way as the two already established synagogues.

 

"I can't talk about prior applications," noted Phillips, who was not the township's consulting planner for these congregation's site plan applications. "It was my job to look at the language of the ordinances and determine whether or not relief was required [for the Chai Center site plan application]."

 

"It's a factor the board can and should consider," Phillips added, as the testimony became heated.

 

Kron continued to question Phillips about parking requirements. Under these requirements, which are listed in the township ordinance, one parking space is allowed for every three seats in a house of worship. In previous testimony, the applicant's planner Paul Gleitz estimated there would be 50 parking spaces and noted there would be 148 fixed seats inside the synagogue.

"The calculation for parking requirements should not be limited to that for houses of worship because it [the proposed synagogue] has other activities: a social hall, a meeting room, a play room and a Mikvah," Kron said. If I were to determine the parking requirement for social functions, what would it be?" he asked Phillips.

 

Phillips responded by saying that it would depend on the function.

 

Coakley's witness, architect Michael Soriano, testified that 209 seats would fit inside the proposed synagogue which would include the 148 fixed seats plus 61 portable chairs that could be set up in the space toward the back of the room between the fixed chairs and windows. Coakley hired Soriano to analyze the existing Chai Center site plan application to determine what the maximum occupancy load could be under the International Building Code New Jersey Edition.

 

By calling Soriano to testify, Coakley told The Item he wanted to show how many people could fit inside the synagogue.

 

"Fifty parking spaces for 148 seats seems ridiculous because the building is so big," Coakley explained.

 

Kron argued during Soriano's testimony that people would be crammed in the sanctuary under these seating calculations.

Coakley's second witness, Robert Sanna, a trustee for the Concerned Neighborhood Association, testified that the synagogue will draw intense levels of traffic and noise to Jefferson Avenue. He noted that landscaping trucks and other vehicles already travel and park on this street on a regular and that cars parked for the synagogue would increase noise and traffic on Jefferson.

 

"A lot of people use Jefferson as a cut through. The street can get difficult to navigate," Sanna said. "There is no traffic signal at the corner of Old Short Hills Road and Jefferson Avenue."

 

According to Sanna, who lives on Jefferson Avenue, the structure would also affect the visual aesthetics of the neighborhood.

 

Several people who attended the meeting were skeptical about Sanna's reasons for opposing the Chai Center.

 

Township resident Robin Blunenthal asked Sanna questions about the current traffic and vehicles that travel along Jefferson Avenue, such as how often landscaping trucks are parked on this roadway. Sanna said the vehicles pass the roadway once or twice a day. In a firm but terse way, Blunenthal asked Sanna what his major objections are to the proposed synagogue, which he again said were traffic and the size of the Chai Center.

 

The next Chai Center hearing is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m., in Millburn Town Hall. Coakley will call a planner and a traffic witness to testify.

 

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

http://www.northjersey.com/news/133101498_Chai_Center_lawyer__supporters_vocal_at_hearing.html?c=y&page=1

 

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