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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Thursday, July 14, 2011

HARRY TRUMBORE,  THE ITEM

 

The Millburn Township Committee is taking action to review a 2009 court settlement with Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky and his wife and the Chai Center for Living Judaism.

 Responding to a request made in April by The Concerned Neighborhood Association, a grassroots organization of residents opposing the Bogomilskys’ plans to build a synagogue at the corner of Old Short Hills Road and Jefferson Avenue, the Committee had its counsel review the settlement.

 

At the June 21 Committee meeting, Mayor Sandra Haimoff announced that the Committee had been advised that "a judicial review is justified."

 

"This cannot and should not be read as interference," Haimoff added, referring to the ongoing synagogue site plan hearings before the Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment.

 

According to Michael Kates, the attorney representing the Committee, a complaint was filed last week in the state Superior Court Law Division.

 

The settlement agreement came out of litigation between the township and the Bogomilskys and required a variance application for a house of worship to be filed.

 

In April, the neighborhood association contended that the rabbi has changed his application from a proposal to expand his existing home on 1 Jefferson Avenue and now proposes to demolish that home and a house on an adjoining property to build a 16,350 square foot synagogue on the combined lot. The association also contended that the rabbi has increased the "frequency and scope" of prayer meetings on the site in violation of the settlement.

 

The association requested as well that $499,000 in fines against the rabbi be reinstated.

 

Philip Pfeffer, the attorney representing the Bogomilskys, responded at that time the claims were without merit, that the fines had been falsely manufactured to punish the Bogomilskys for exercising their constitutionally protected rights to host prayer meetings in their home.

 

In confirming the filing of a complaint requesting the settlement be reviewed, Kates this week told The Item of Millburn and Short Hills that "Essentially, what precipitated this change is their deeding out to a nonprofit." Kates explained the complaint challenges the claim that the Bogomilskys are conducting religious worship in their private home.

 

"The pretense of using their home for religious prayer is nonexistent," he said. Kates termed the deeding of the home to a nonprofit entity as "playing games with ownership."

 

Kates also called the change in the site plan application, from the single home to the new building on the two, combined lots, "disingenuous."

 

Citing as well increased frequency of religious events at the site and delays in the zoning board hearings, Kates said the Committee was seeking the court to quickly issue a restraining order for breach of contract and breach of the settlement.

 

Pfeffer, in an email to The Item this week, stated that he was unaware of any circumstances that would justify a judicial review of the settlement and said he and his clients stood by their response to the Committee in April.

 

The next scheduled hearing for the synagogue site plan application before the zoning board is scheduled for Aug. 22. Representatives of the Bogomilskys contend that a revised site plan that moved the proposed structure forward now meets all height and buffer requirements.

 

The sole variance being sought is for the three-acre requirement for a house of worship. The Bogomilskys’ property, along with the adjoining lot that they will use totals about 1.8 acres.

 

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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