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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Chai Center plan requires yard variance

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
BY LINDSEY KELLEHER
The Item of Millburn and Short Hills

 

The Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment upheld the appeal made by the Concerned Neighborhood Association about the township zoning officer's decision regarding front yard setback involving the revised site plan application for the proposed Chai Center of Living Judaism during its Aug. 22 meeting.

Approving the appeal which was made by Concerned Neighborhood Association attorney Kevin Coakley means that the two houses proposed to be demolished will now be included in the front yard setback averaging calculation.

 

Millburn Zoning Officer Eileen Davitt explained that a setback variance may be required depending on what the front yard setback average is with the two houses included and where on the property the proposed Chai Center will be constructed. A setback variance will possibly be required for Jefferson Avenue and/or Old Short Hills Road.

 

Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky is proposing to tear down the residence on 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.

 

Expert witnesses who represent the Chai Center presented a revised site plan of the proposed Chai Center construction during a Zoning Board meeting this past May. According to these witnesses, the plan met all setback, buffer and height requirements. The setback under the new plans was 57 feet from Jefferson Avenue. Front yard setbacks for surrounding properties ranged from 90 to more than 150 feet.

 

During this May Zoning Board meeting, Davitt ruled that an average setback cannot be established because there is only one neighboring house, which belongs to the Gamboni family. Davitt determined that a variance for setback was not necessary because there was no uniformity.

 

Coakley appealed Davitt's decision because he explained that front yard setback should be based on existing residential house setbacks on the same side of the street. People who apply to build new properties in Millburn must give the township zoning officer front yard setbacks of all dwellings within 500 feet of the lot for where the proposed construction is to be.

 

Coakley argued that the two existing dwellings proposed for demolition contribute to the character of the neighborhood and should be included in the front yard setback average calculation.


"You can't disadvantage the owner of lot 8," Coakley said, referring to Gamboni residence next door to the disputed properties.

 

"We request the applicant to measure the Gamboni house," he noted, since that dimension was never included on the plan for how far back the house is from the road.


When voting on this decision, several board members were concerned about other houses that currently exist on Jefferson Avenue.

 

"This is the entrance to a neighborhood on Jefferson Avenue," Board Member Roger Manshel said, explaining that the character and entrance of this street will be changed by the proposed project.


"If you buy a strip of houses and adversely leave one out, you can still affect the one you left out," noted Thomas Singer, another board member.

 

Larry Kron, Bogomilsky's attorney, argued that there is no average setback because there is only one neighboring house next to proposed synagogue site.

 

"The zoning officer is right in her decision," Kron said.


Kron argued that Coakley did not file an appeal within 20 days of when Davitt made the decision, which he explained is against the law. Davitt's ruling occurred at the May 2 Zoning Board meeting. Coakley filed an appeal about the ruling on July 13.

 

The vote Monday night was almost unanimous with all board members except Zoning Board Chair Joseph Steinberg voting in favor of overturning the township zoning officer's decision. Board Member Cheryl Burstein was absent from this past Monday's meeting.

 

The Chai Center hearings will continue at the Zoning Board meeting scheduled to be held on Sept. 26, at 7 p.m., in Millburn Town Hall.

 

However, a special Zoning Board meeting has been scheduled for Oct. 31 during which Kron will present evidence about front yard setback.

 

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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