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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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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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