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West End Synagogue Application Continues With No Resolution

Testimony should be completed at next meeting

The Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment continued to hear testimony for Chabad of Shore's application to build a synagogue and other space in West End on Monday night.

The application was heard for the first time since September, but no decision was made by the board, as there are still questions from the public, the attorney who is representing the West End business owners and the board.

The final testimony is expected to be made at the next zoning board meeting on Jan. 28, and it is possible the board could vote on the application, which was first heard on June 11.

Chabad wishes to build a two-story building that contains a 200-seat sanctuary, a 200-person capacity multipurpose room with a kitchen on the second floor, and five classrooms, office space and a room for religious services on the second floor. A large, 51-space parking lot in the rear of the property also is included in the plan.

The plan would include the demolition of an old movie theater on Ocean Avenue and two stores north of the structure; Mike's West End Deli, which is now vacant, and Lou's Uniforms. There are also two vacant apartments above the stores.

A synagogue is not a permitted use in the commercial zone, so Chabad of the Shore is looking to obtain a use variance to use the site and also obtain some minor bulk variances for parking and setbacks.

Chabad of the Shore's planner Richard Preiss testified on Monday night and went over the positive and negative criteria for the application.

Preiss said that although a synagogue is not a permitted use in the commercial zone, that it would have "no negative impact on the community."

"We're not dislodging a retail mainstay," Preiss said. "It benefits the community to replace the existing building."

"A place of worship is considered to be inherently beneficial," he added.

Board Vice Chair Jeff Ging asked Preiss if replacing buildings that are ratables with a nonprofit organization that will not pay taxes to the city is beneficial to the community.

Preiss said adding a house of worship is beneficial to the community and is an improvement and that losing the ratables is considered "an acceptable trade off."

Preiss also went over several conditions Chabad of the Shore is willing to adhere to if the application is approved by the board.

He said the number of persons allowed at the synagogue, or its multipurpose room, will be capped at 200. He said if an event is held there that requires more attendees, the event will be moved to another venue.

He also said outside groups will be not allowed to rent the facility, but that nonprofit groups would be allowed use if it does not interfere with the Chabad's scheduled events.

Preiss added that the parking lot will feature landscaping along its northern border to buffer it from West End Park and that residents, business owners and visitors who are going to local shops will be allowed to use the parking lot on days when it does not need it for highly-attended events.

Rabbi Leibel Shapiro, of Chabad of the Shore, has said that will include days such as the three Jewish high holy days.

Shapiro has also said that many of the congregants walk and that the parking will often not be at full capacity during regular worship days.

Several West End business owners have said they do not agree with the application because of the possible loss of parking for the area and the fact that the building is not a permitted use in the commercial zone.

Others are worried that if the application is approved, that it could affect what is done with the site where several businesses and homes were destroyed by a large fire in February. The site is currently a grass lot, and there have been no applications by any of the former building owners to rebuild at this time.

Cranky HR Guy January 17, 2013 at 02:09 AM
I appreciate the dialogue here but want you all to consider two points: 1 This is NOT about religion... I would oppose a Church, Temple, Mosque ...or ANY religious structure here - it's a COMMERCIAL ZONE at the heart of a business district. Nothing anti-anybody here 2. All of you who are for or against this should attend the next Zoning Board meeting and listen the testimony and have your voice heard
Peter Koenig January 17, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Yes, #1 must be said - and remembered. I'd go a step further and (likely) oppose the placement of, say, a commercial use in a residential zone, or multiple dwellings in a single-family zone. The zoning ordinances provide ample areas for a variety of uses within the City - this use isn't permitted here; it is permitted elsewhere within the City. It's not about religion.
Kathy A January 17, 2013 at 05:20 PM
I agree 100%!!! I would also oppose any use other than commercial!
Cranky HR Guy January 18, 2013 at 08:32 PM
The applicant is trying to rely on a 1992 ruling that posits that a house of worship is an 'inherently beneficial use" and should thus be allowed barring a showing of extreme harm to the community by doing so. They are misleading us with their case cite as the law under which that would be true CHANGED in 1997 to give Zoning Boards much more latitude: "No variance or other relief may be granted under the terms of this section, including a variance or other relief involving an inherently beneficial use, without a showing that such variance or other relief can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and will not substantially impair the intent and the purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance.” N.J.S.A. 40:55D-70(d)." Short answer... NO, you don't get a free pass to undue a zoning plan just because you want to build a house of worship.
Kathleen Boffice January 25, 2013 at 03:40 PM
What part don't you understand? This location is NOT ZONED for worship!! How can Long Branch even consider changing zoning laws when these people are operating illegally out of 620 ocean ave for yrs already? What makes you think they will abide by the rules trying to obtain this variance! Wake up long branch, this chabbad will only suck the rest of the life out of west end! Not to mention traffic jams, especially in summer when it's already a nightmare without the extra 200 people n who knows how many cars! Good way to put a damper on the rest of west ends thriving businesses!

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