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, June 29, 2011

BY LINDSEY KELLEHER

The Item of Millburn and Short Hills

 

Paul Gleitz, planner for the proposed synagogue on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road, testified during the June 27 Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting that his client would not require a parking variance for the site since the requirement has been met for providing one parking space for every three seats in the house of worship.

This parking space requirement is listed in the township ordinance.

 

"It was our contention that we always met our parking requirements," Gleitz said.

 

As far as other requirements, the planner said the synagogue meets all setback, buffer and height requirements under the revised site plan which was presented to the Zoning Board in May.

 

Larry Kron, the attorney representing Gleitz's client, Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky, said a design waiver may be needed for parking, but not a variance waiver.

 

During the May meeting, Kron said that a D3 variance is needed to construct the Chai Center of Living Judaism on this site since township regulations currently require that a house of worship be constructed on three acres of land.

 

Bogomilsky has proposed 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. The proposal providing parking spaces for 50 vehicles was included in a drawing of the site plan done by engineer David Fantina.

The synagogue's potential membership size, the design of the structure, and the landscape on the site were also discussed during the June 27 meeting.

 

Kevin Coakley, attorney for residents opposed to the project, cross-examined Gleitz about parking, and asked him if there would be parking on the buffer, which is a 50-foot wide area of land mostly of bare ground along the north border of the property.

 

Glancing down at the paper with the site plan drawing, Gleitz acknowledged that people would be parking on the buffer and said, "We are relying on the site plan estimate of 50 parking spaces."

 

During the cross-examination, Coakley noted that facilities such as synagogues tend to have membership increases. Gleitz then referred to Bogomilsky's testimony from a previous meeting that membership at the proposed synagogue would be smaller in size and steadier than that of larger religious institutions in the township since those practicing at the Chai Center would be Orthodox Jews. The congregants would not be traveling far to get to a service since they would be coming from Millburn or surrounding communities, Gleitz explained.

 

Coakley grilled Gleitz with questions about the CMO requirements for churches, which require that houses of worship must have a 40,000 square foot lot, a 50 foot setback, a minimum lot width of 200 feet, and a maximum building coverage of 40 percent. He asked about the potential structure's architectural design.

"Is the building designed architecturally to fit an overflow of people?" Coakley asked citing minutes from a 2008 meeting about Congregation B'nai Israel, another house of worship in Millburn.

 

According to Gleitz, the Chai Center will not have a removable wall with seating brought in from a social hall unlike B'nai Israel's structural set-up which allows the sanctuary and social meeting hall rooms to be combined.

 

"The Rabbi's intention is to do services within the sanctuary," Gleitz said, "The doors may get left open during service but the walls don't get removed."

 

The proposed synagogue will include 147 fixed seats in the sanctuary.

 

Earlier in the meeting, John Lamb, an attorney representing the Gambino family who live in a neighboring house to the proposed Chai Center, asked if conditions should be planned to avoid destruction of trees in the 15 to 25 feet offset, which is located along the western side of the site.

 

Kron said, "The client is willing to make some changes."

 

He continued to say that Bogomilsky is willing to meet with the couple in the neighboring house to go over the landscape design plan.

 

Lamb repeatedly asked his opponents if the building's location can be detrimental to the owners of an adjacent property even if all variances were approved.

 

His opponents rebutted the question, saying that it was irrelevant.

 

Board Chair Joseph Steinberg eventually noted that if the Board were to approve the application, then it doesn't matter if the couple is in favor of it.

 

Another Chai Center hearing will be held on Aug. 22, at 7 p.m. During this hearing, Coakley is scheduled to finish his cross-examination of Gleitz and Lamb said he wants to hear the environmental engineer re-testify.

 

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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