The Township Council reversed a zoning board decision Monday that would have allowed the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School to open a school in a planned industrial area of the township.
Before making its decision, council members said they were concerned about safety and with upholding current zoning and the Master Plan.
“This has never been anything more than a land use issue for us and I am extremely confident that no member of this governing body has ever approached it in a way other than that,” said Council President James Wendell. “That being said, in regard to the land use, I feel that towns have zones for a reason and I do not see that this should be a permitted use for this zone.”
The Zoning Board of Adjustment originally granted a variance to Hatikvah in July that allowed it to renovate 557,379-square-foot warehouse into a school. The building, 7 Lexington Ave., is located in a planned industrial zone and is surrounded by similar warehouses, including Vending Trucks Inc. Several lots away, at 11 Lexington Ave., is the Chinese Evangelical Mission Church of New Jersey.
In August, residents Deborah Cornavaca and Christine Rampolla filed an appeal of the variance, stating, among other reasons, that the variance should not have been granted because “there was a conflict of interest,” and that “the board did not permit a complete record to be made.” The appeal also states “the applicant failed to show that the relief can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good,” and “the applicant failed to show that the relief sought will not substantially impair the intent and purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance.”
Councilwoman Camille Ferraro said she felt that the variance went against the township’s Master Plan and would make it difficult for permitted uses to move in, or expand in the future.
“As sure as donuts are made I can bet you that the first time an industry comes in and wants to do something the outcry is going to be ‘but the children are there.’ So what are we doing? We’re going to de facto zone our light industrial right out of existence,” said Ferraro. “We’re going to be doing legislation piecemeal. We’re going to be putting something there that doesn’t belong there and then by virtue of that being there, we’re going to say ‘oh no we cant’ do this here, we can’t put that there,’ and business is going to go away and where is the good to the community.”