The spokesman for the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School says an appeal filed against them is baseless.
“The appeal is nothing more than a baseless nuisance suit brought by opponents of the school meant to delay the project. The school did everything by the book: it complied with all of the recommendations and proposed modifications as suggested by the Township Engineer’s staff and all of the recommendations of the East Brunswick Board of Education as set forth in a memorandum submitted to the Zoning Board of Adjustment during the course of the hearing, including, the construction of an additional drop off area for buses. The Zoning Board then unanimously approved the site plan and variance, determining that the use at the site was ‘inherently beneficial’ under state law. We are confident, therefore, that the governing body will affirm the decision of the Zoning Board,” Dan Gerstein, spokesman for Hatikvah, said in a statement.
The variance, approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment in July, allows Hatikvah to renovate a 557,379-square-foot warehouse at 7 Lexington Ave. into a school. The building is located in a planned industrial zone and a variance is needed to open a school in the zone.
The appeal was filed by Deborah E. Cornavaca and Christine Rampolla, two critics of the school, on Aug. 20.
"Legitimate concerns for students’ safety should never be considered a nuisance. We should all be able to work together on decisions this important to our community,” said Rampolla.
The appeal states that the variance should not have been granted because “there was a conflict of interest,” that “the board did not permit a complete record to be made,” 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.”
Cornavaca agreed, saying that they have nothing against the school, but are looking out for the safety of students and the community.
“Our primary concern is the safety of all students in our community and the hazards of placing a public school on a warehouse strip. While the zoning board considered traffic studies and architectural plans, they did not give adequate consideration to the safety of the children attending school in a warehouse and the appropriateness of that environment for an elementary school. Moreover, we believe a conflict of interest created by the school’s attorney also representing our municipality's Planning Board contributed to the public’s concerns not being addressed,” said Cornavaca.
The attorney representing Hatikvah during the hearing is Lawrence Sachs, who also serves as the township Planning Board attorney.
Business Administrator James White said the appeal would be heard by the Township Council. As a requirement of the appeal, the plaintiff’s were required to furnish minutes of the appropriate zoning board meetings.
All transcripts can be found on the townships website at http://www.eastbrunswick.org/content/885/101/default.aspx and then choosing "Zoning Board," then "Minutes," then "2012." The relevant transcripts are the minutes from the meetings on June 7, 2012, July 5, 2012 and August 2, 2012.
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