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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Below is our overview of the meeting last night. If you go to the website section titled news/media you can read what four local newspapers also published today. If you could not attend last night's opening hearing, read them all. The feeling is that the hearings will last until the end of the year based on the four-hour session last night. The photos were provided by our group.

 

Millburn Township, NJ - April 12, 2010

The Concerned Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township

SaveMillburn.com

 


 

After several delays for technical and application reasons, the Zoning Board of Adjustment started hearings concerning the request of the Chai Center located at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road to have four variance violations overturned. The Rabbi and the Chai Center are requesting exceptions to the current zoning law so they can proceed with plans to build a 16,350 square foot building for the religious services and other activities of the Chai Center. See www.ChaiCenter.net for their other locations in town.

 

The meeting, because of local resident interest and limited seating at Town Hall, was held at the Hartshorn Grammar School. Counting board members, press, photographers, legal stenographer and interested parties from both sides, there were probably close to 250 people in the school gym. The meeting started at 7pm with Zoning Board of Adjustment Chairman Joe Steinberg introducing the rules for the hearing. He then allowed lawyers for both sides to make brief opening statements. It was during this early period that a senior member of the Zoning Board became ill. The Chairman asked for a short recess while the emergency squad was called. The board member eventually left on his own and the meeting continued.

 

Then, from about 8:30pm until the end of the meeting at 11pm, the only witness called, examined and cross-examined was Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky.  While the Rabbi stated many times he plans on calling on his expert witnesses, he gave testimony for close to three hours after being sworn in. He provided large blow-ups of the actual plans and property layout. Because of the way the hearing ground rules were stated by the Chairman, the witnesses including the Rabbi were asked not to make statements but rather, like a court of law, to answer predetermined questions. The lawyer representing the Chai Center asked a multitude of questions and the Rabbi answered them but did drift into more than just direct answers. When this portion of the testimony was completed, the lawyer for The Concerned Neighborhood Citizens of Millburn Township rebutted with his questions of the Rabbi. Then the attorney for one of the adjoining property owners began his cross-examination. He asked follow up questions for the next 30 minutes. When the meeting was adjourned by the Chairman, because of the late hour, the same lawyer said he still had 12 pages of notes with further follow up questions.

 

Chairman Steinberg said there was a conflict with a May meeting at the same school and so the next hearing would be held at the same location, same time but not until Monday June 21st.

 

One of the issues that came out during the legal rebuttals was that the second property, on half an acre of land, is not owned by the Chai Center but by a member of their congregation and resident of town named Harry Gross. The lawyers opposed to the approval of the variances said that if the property owner changed his mind all the money and time would be wasted. The Chai Center team agreed to have a contract written before the June zoning meeting that absolutely declared the second piece of property would in fact be owned by the Chai Center if the variances were approved.

 

The other legal issue that came up during the meeting was the fact one or both of the adjoining neighbors have stipulations in their deeds regarding the properties at 1 and 7 Jefferson Avenue. One of these stipulations states how the property can be used since it was actually sold off by a neighboring property many years ago. Chairman Steinberg told the lawyers he did not think these restrictions would be part of the Zoning Board hearings.

 

Assuming both sides will be presenting expert witnesses like architects, engineers, planners and traffic specialists, the hearings could continue for quite some time. It should be noted that when the three attorneys (one for the applicant and two for the plaintiffs) are finished with their cross examination, the Zoning Board members will be asking their own questions of this first witness, the Rabbi of the Chai Center. Only then would the public at large be allowed to ask their questions.

 

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