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, September 28, 2011

BY LINDSEY KELLEHER

The Item of Millburn and Short Hills

 

Concluding his testimony during the Sept. 26 Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, planner Paul Gleitz argued that constructing a synagogue on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road will not have any substantial negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.

 During this meeting, Gleitz also presented Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky's new proposed front yard setback calculations for this house of worship. These new calculations were created because of a ruling made by the Zoning Board at its Aug. 22 meeting to include the two existing houses that are proposed to be demolished in the setback calculations from Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road.

 

The proposed front yard setback calculations as well as parking and altering the character of this Short Hills neighborhood were issues that township residents and Zoning Board members asked about this past Monday night.

 

Board member Mary McNett asked if Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road would be difficult to navigate were the synagogue to be built in this location, pointing out that these roadways can already be crowded sometimes. James Clark, another board member, asked if synagogue-goers would park on Jefferson Avenue if the lot for the Chai Center is full.

 

Gleitz explained that Bogomilsky can advise synagogue attendees not to park on either one of the roads when attending services.

 

"There is adequate parking on site," said Gleitz, "Parking on Jefferson is not the best alternative. The applicant is willing to come up with an alternative solution."

 

Kevin Coakley, attorney for the Concerned Neighborhood Association, argued parking will change the character of the neighborhood and that using this property for a house of worship will generate more people and traffic than the two single-family homes currently located on the property.

 

"Residents are mostly home |on the weekends and services mostly happen on the weekends," Coakley said.

 

Over time, Coakley maintained, houses of worship tend to increase their membership.

 

Gleitz noted the proposed Chai Center would not lend itself to large growth since the congregants would be practicing a specialized type of Orthodox Judaism.

 

Bogomilsky is proposing to tear down the residence of his Jefferson Avenue property as well as the house on an adjoining lot and build a 16,350 square foot synagogue on the 1.8-acre lot. Under current township regulations, three acres of land are required to construct a house of worship.

 

To construct the proposed synagogue the applicant is asking for a 57.1 foot setback from the proposed house of worship to Jefferson Avenue and a 40.26 foot setback from Old Short Hills Road. The current front yard setback for the house on lot 9 in 158.5 feet and on lot 10, it is 159.3 feet from Jefferson Avenue. The Gamboni family property, lot 8, is currently located 111 feet from its front property line on Jefferson Avenue and the Welsch family property is setback 140 feet from this road.

 

Based on two photos he took Sept. 26, Bogomilsky testified that the Gambonis would not be able to see the proposed Chai Center from their property because a row of trees that would be planted would obstruct their view. From the synagogue, he noted, people might be able to see the top of the Welsch property.

 

Michael Lamb, attorney for the Gambonis, argued that the Gamboni house would be visible from the synagogue because this home is about 25 feet high whereas the trees would only be 5 to 7 feet high. Lamb made several other arguments including that the trees would not necessarily be a noise buffer between the synagogue and the neighboring homes, and that his clients should have been properly notified about the Sept. 26 Zoning Board meeting.

 

"We believe the board determined the notice was proper at the last meeting," said Larry Kron, Bogomilsky's attorney, in response to Lamb's argument.

 

Regarding front yard setback, Kron submitted information to the township's Zoning Board about a previous case involving 2 Jefferson Ave., which is across the street and south of Bogomilsky's property, 1 Jefferson Ave.

In this case from 1999, the Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment granted these property owners a variance for 58 feet to construct a garage when 88 feet was required.

 

Township resident Lynne Filipski inquired about whether or not the historic character of a neighborhood is considered when calculating front yard setback averages.

 

Gleitz responded by saying that the entire Jefferson Avenue/Old Short Hills Road neighborhood and how the houses relate to that particular neighborhood was looked at in this instance.

 

The next hearing for the Chai Center will be on Monday, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m., in Millburn Town Hall.

 

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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