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Council Overturns Hatikvah Variance

A variance that would have allowed the school to renovate a warehouse into a new school was overturned by the Township Council, Monday.

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.

, 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.”

The council began hearing testimony regarding the variance in December.

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.”

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ChoiceInEducation January 15, 2013 at 10:29 PM
NGA - no conflict here. They have been and are continuing to do what is exactly in their agenda.
Lori Trachtenberg Ginsberg January 15, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Kelly, I think you meant to point out that the stats in the web page you linked to are not reliable...unless none of the children ever attended school all year which would account for the 0% attendance rate. And I know that's not correct b/c I know personally a number of children who did in fact go to school just about every day. This would indicate to me that the data is highly unreliable.
Lori Trachtenberg Ginsberg January 15, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Debbie Morris, while it is not the Town Council's responsibility to find the school a new location, it is disheartening that in all of this the town council did not express any regret that while they were doing what they thought was best for the town, it was unfortunate that school children from East Brunswick will be negatively impacted by the outcome. A small acknowledgement of the children this impacts would have left an impression that the Council has a heart. I don't think that should be too much to ask of people who call themselves leaders.
Anne January 15, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Lori - Why did you cut out parts of my posting to make it look bad? There's no need to manipulate my words. I was responding to a Hatikvah parent who has just called someone on here "billous excrement." Here is my post in full, though everyone can just click through: ""billous excrement?" Wow, you are quite the charmer. Perhaps it is best that my children do not go to school with anyone raised by you."
Harlan January 15, 2013 at 10:49 PM
While Hatikvah did mention the IB program, Ive not heard that as a reason for families not choosing the program. The main reasons I have heard are related to facilities and litigation. (I wish I had data to support this belief but I dont think that such data exists.) Once these issues are resolved, it seems that the student population will reach an even keel and I would also expect that the non-EB crowd will diminish. People generally are hesitant to be pioneers particularly with the education of their children, but once this becomes an established brand, then they will be more likely to select this option.
Harlan January 15, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Critical thinking skills are crucial to achivement. Any school that does not embrace innovation and progression in this regard does so at the peril of their students.
Kelly January 15, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Lori, as Kevin Wyman pointed out, the zeroing out of results is used when there are no numbers reported. If you would like to confirm that, you might like to call the state Department of Education. As far as your experience, I appreciate you sharing it, but it is purely anecdotal and doesn't really tell us anything "reliable."
Norman January 15, 2013 at 11:02 PM
Benji- Good point...and while you're at it why not go to a heart surgeon without experience so he/she can "have a chance" with your life?
Lori Trachtenberg Ginsberg January 15, 2013 at 11:38 PM
Anne, I'm not sure how seeing the full conversation changes the fact of how you chose to respond. And what's your excuse for using the term "sugar daddy" pr calling someone a strange cat? Sometimes it's better to acknowledge when you're wrong and move on,
Lori Trachtenberg Ginsberg January 15, 2013 at 11:43 PM
Kelly, I stand behind my contention that the data is incorrect. The teachers did not turn over entirely during the school year. And I think you're mistaken when you say my anecdotal doesn't say anything reliable. It may not be statistically significant, but it still has value. Particularly because many on this site don't have real experience with or knowledge of the school.
Jarhead January 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Two gadflies are costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting the charter school. The East Brunswick arm of the NJEA, ( New Jersey Extortion Association) strikes again. The township council, being lacky's of the powers to be choose to work on being re-elected rather than work for the common good. I'm reminded of a quote by President Harry Truman,which fits the town council members perfectly and I will respectfully paraphrase:" I could have been a piano player in a whore house or a politician. Actually, not much difference."
selena palmer January 16, 2013 at 12:21 AM
I cannot believe that parents of children attending Hatikvah would not be DEEPLY concerned, not just about the industrial traffic (trucks, service vehicles-delivery, repair) but also the transiency of personnel in the area (drivers, repairers, etc); this personnel will most likely NOT be any more careful in an industrial area JUST because of the school's presence (not to mentioned the potential threat of callous and even criminal actions against the children). Yes, things have happened at schools in school/residential zones, but the possibilities may increase with a school with young children right smack in the middle of an industrial zone. One of our council members also pointed out, rather succinctly, that a decision to put a school in an industrial zone really creates problems in the future, when other similar variances are sought and we need to deny them.
Benjamin January 16, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Norm,you dont care about the quality of the teachers at Hatikvah so spare us the drama. I know your kind. Go measure the grass on your neighbors lawn, if your lucky its a bit high and you can keep busy by filing a petition against them too. Keep up your important work!
Kevin Wyman January 16, 2013 at 12:52 AM
Choice....I never said it was "fact"....However, my presentation of this possible answer is, in fact, based on fact. The reader is entitled to conclude whether or not the possibility I have presented is plausible based on the facts I have provided. Neither you nor I will know why someone took their children out of Hatikvah unless the state has written documentation from the parents explaining their decision.
selena palmer January 16, 2013 at 01:09 AM
Why do peeps have to be rude & snarky in trying to get their point across? If you think someone will "shut up" just because you (Benjamin for instance) hurl insulting remarks, all you do is kill reasonable discourse (hmmmm, reminds me of kids in a schoolyard trying to hurt each other with childish insults). Let's discuss with some maturity, or we'll be led to believe you cannot really defend what you believe, reasonably.
Madeline January 16, 2013 at 02:07 AM
Well said Selena! I could not agree more!!!
Meredith January 16, 2013 at 02:12 AM
Selena, when did you visit the building on Lexington?
Kelly January 16, 2013 at 02:21 AM
@Steven Has it occurred to you that "The council, board of education and our town leaders" you speak of are actually acting in a manner which represents what the majority of the town wants; and isn't that exactly what they are elected to do? I could understand if you were making the case that big money or big politics came in and they acted against the people they are elected to represent. But, it seems to me they were doing exactly what their constituents would want them to do.
Norman January 16, 2013 at 02:24 AM
Benny- you finally said something that made sense and are 100% right. I don't care about the quality of the teachers mainly because I do not have a child going to Hatikvah. By the way what kind am I Benjamin?? Regarding the grass...based on your logic it seems to me you are smoking grass........
Kelly January 16, 2013 at 02:34 AM
Harlan, Those are the main reasons? Don't leave out the families who left because the inexperienced teachers did not know how to handle their special needs students. Or, the families who just wanted full day kindergarten and after being there for a year preferred the public schools.
Harlan January 16, 2013 at 02:54 AM
Seleena The fact of the matter is that there has long been a school in this very area. No one has identified any harm occurring to these kids either as prey for the transients you identified or by being hit by vehicular traffic. The high road school operated here for a long time. This is a school for special needs students (which in essence is a public school as the payments of tuition are largely public funds). As above, No one has ever identified any problems for that school in the time at issue. And make no mistake there was a lot more traffic at the time as Plumrose was in operation at the time. . Since then the Chinese church has operated in the same site without incident. Moreover if this area is so dangerous we should be more concerned for the child care center and senior facility which abut the property from the cranbury road side. To the extent that the council lady wants to preserve the nature of the zone that horse has left the stable long ago since there is already a good amount of non commercial use in the area. Would east Brunswick be better served having more industry - sure. But the reality is that this slice of town is not where those uses are located any longer.
Liz SMith January 16, 2013 at 03:05 AM
Harlan, Do you the vending truck company that would be next to Hatikvah sees it that way? Last I heard, they were making every effort to expand their business back there.
Meredith January 16, 2013 at 03:14 AM
Liz, unless you are the owner of the vending company I really can't consider your statement. Otherwise, I heard that Lexington Village is expanding to build 400 more units along the east side of Lexington Avenue.
Liz SMith January 16, 2013 at 03:23 AM
Meredith, OKay, now I understand where all the nonsense about a school and a possible medical facility came from. Why it didn't occur to me at first that the school had started that rumor, I don't know, shame on me, I guess - second time and all (or third or fourth or fifth, but who's counting the lies at this point?).
Harlan January 16, 2013 at 03:26 AM
Can anyone identify any safety issues that have befallen either the elementary students who attended the high road school or the children who attend the Chinese church school or the attendees of the church functions. I've never heard of any. If there are I'd think they would have surfaced. That is telling As to the vending truck business are the traffic concerns any different than all the other east Brunswick schools private and public located on busy town roads? If anything there is less traffic here than other places. Of the concern is the business itself is there some nefarious use of the property. If so we already have a day care facility abutting the property so that would presumably have been evaluated.
Meredith January 16, 2013 at 03:32 AM
It is not nonsense. The zoning board granted approval to convert 5 Lexington into medical offices a while ago. The Cranbury Road corridor has been mostly medical offices for decades. Knowing there is no demand for a warehouse, the owner got a change in use approved. I don't see why you are being so nasty.
Benjamin January 16, 2013 at 03:32 AM
so you dont have a child at the school. Neither do I . Which is why nothing about Hatikvah bothers me. "the kind" is the people that like to start trouble. Why do you care where their building is? I'm all for people standing up for what they believe in but this is about the children who from what I understand are learning in trailers. Just let them have a building to learn in. I'm pretty sure this will not negatively impact your life. Thats all I'm saying. Respect the charter and the parents that choose to send there. They pay taxes as well and are entitled to their choice. If they dont mind having inexperienced teachers and being in an industrial area why do you?
Liz SMith January 16, 2013 at 03:50 AM
Meredith, 5 was approved for medical use a long, long time ago and then the deal fell through, possibly because the potential buyer realized how much it would cost to remediate a hazardous waste site. It was bad enough that the buyer went through all that money to go before the zoning board and still decided not to purchase it. Yikes!
Norman February 05, 2013 at 05:51 PM
@ Selena Palmer..thanks for jumping in here but I can handle the tirade believe me. What is funny is that I an "baiting" Bennie and he keeps taking the bait. While this is a very serious subject, I cannot help but see the humor in some of the posts and respond accordingly. Yes I know it is a bit childish but my sarcastic side takes over sometimes. What is even more intriguing to me is that I have not ONCE declared myself pro or con on Hatikvah in any of my posts. In fact, I have even stated that I have not yet made that determination. Benji throws jabs at me having made the assumption that I am "against" so I must be a trouble maker too. Alas, I am neither....yet.
Norman February 05, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Hey folks what happened to this thread...it died just as it was getting lively! Any updates on the legal happenings? C'mon folks bring your opinions back !!

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