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.

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Township of Millburn Files Suit Against Chai Center and Rabbi Bogomilsky;
Seeks Nullification of 2009 Settlement and Injunction

Patricia Harris
Thursday, August 18 2011
The Alternative Press
http://thealternativepress.com/articles/township-of-millburn-files-suit-against-chai-cente--2

 

MILLBURN, NJ - The Township of Millburn has filed a lawsuit against Rabbi Bogomilsky, his wife, Rivkah, and the synagogue he leads, the Chai Center of Millburn-Short Hills, for breach of contract.

 

The complaint brought in Superior Court on July 8 asks that a settlement reached in 2009 between the township and the rabbi and his wife, Rivkah, be nullified and an injunction issued restraining the use of a property at 1 Jefferson Avenue as a house of worship.

The lawsuit comes even as the township's zoning board of adjustment continues site plan hearings on the center's request to build a 16,000-square-foot house of worship on that site and an adjoining property at 7 Jefferson Avenue. The next hearing is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 22.

 

The case hinges on where the rabbi lives.

 

According to the document, on Sept. 17, 2009, approximately three months after the Bogomilskys signed the settlement agreement, the Bogomilskys transferred ownership of 1 Jefferson Avenue from the rabbi and his wife (and Samuel Bogomilsky, believed to be the rabbi's father) to the Chai Center for Living Judaism.

 

In addition, the suit says, Mendel Bogomilsky testified at the June 21 zoning board hearing that his residence was at 437 Millburn Avenue. The Bogomilskys live at 437 Millburn Avenue for purposes of voter registration and driver's license registration, the document also says.

 

"The settlement agreement was predicated upon the fact that Rabbi Bogomilsky would continue to reside at 1 Jefferson Avenue and that the use of his home for daily ritual was incidental to the home ownership," the lawsuit says. "Once the rabbi and his wife elected to reside elsewhere, the use of 1 Jefferson Avenue for any and all activities associated with a religious institution were and are prohibited by the Millburn Zoning Ordinance, until that use is sanctioned by the variance process....."

 

The attorney for the township, Michael Kates of Kates Nussman Rapone Ellis & Farhi in Hackensack, said in an e-mail this week that the defendants have until Sept. 6 to reply to the complaint and nothing is before a judge at this point.

The attorney for the defendants, Philip Pfeffer of Chadbourne & Parke of London and New York, said this week in an e-mail he is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed.

 

"The lawsuit brought by the Township is frivolous and was filed for the purpose of intimidating the Bogomilskys and is an effort to derail our current application before the zoning board," he said. "The Township will not succeed in either effort—we will not be intimidated and we will continue to push forward with our zoning application—an application we intend to win.

"As for the lawsuit, we intend to get the case dismissed as it has no basis in fact or law," Pfeffer continued. "If, however, we are forced to litigate, the Mayor and the other members of the Township Committee will find themselves embroiled in the litigation once again. If the town wants a rock fight, we will give them one."


As for the current use of 1 Jefferson Avenue, he said the Bogomilskys continue to host prayer meetings in their home as is their constitutional right. He contended that hosting such prayer meetings does not convert the home into a house of worship.

 

The 2009 settlement called for the Bogomilskys to file an application before the zoning board to merge the 1 Jefferson Avenue property with the adjoining property; to expand the 1 Jefferson Avenue home to include, among other things, a formal sanctuary; and for a conditional use variance for operating a house of worship on less than three acres, and for any other relief required by the development application.

 

The Bogomilskys agreed that while their zoning application is pending, they would not materially increase the frequency and scope of the current, regularly scheduled meetings they host at 1 Jefferson Avenue.

 

The township agreed to refrain from any and all enforcement actions in relation to the Bogomilskys' home at 1 Jefferson Avenue pending resolution of the Bogomilskys' zoning application. The township further agreed to drop all fines associated with the properties at 1 Jefferson Avenue and 431-437 Millburn Avenue with the exception of one fine in the amount of $1,000, due with the submission of the Bogomilskys' zoning application.

 

The township also agreed to provide the Bogomilskys with a permit to lay a patio in the backyard of the 1 Jefferson Avenue property.

 

Mayor Sandra Haimoff and Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky could not be reached for comment before the story went to press.

Millburn Township Administrator Timothy Gordon said he cannot comment on pending court cases and referred TheAlternativePress.com to Kates, the municipality's attorney.

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