BRICK TOWNSHIP — The Brick Board of Adjustment held a special meeting on Monday to begin the hearing on use of a property at 200 Van Zile Road as a Jewish boys’ school.
The Jewish congregation Kehilos Yisroel has applied to add a boys’ high school to the synagogue located on Van Zile Street. Officials said the high school was operating improperly in August and September of 2021.
In August, the township issued multiple warnings to the congregation after confirming that a school had been established at the property without the proper permits. When the school continued to operate, the town issued a cease-and-desist order, stipulating the school could only continue to operate if approved by Brick’s Board of Adjustment.
Dozens of residents attended the Dec. 20 meeting to observe and participate in public comment, but after five and a half hours, the board decided to continue the meeting in February. By the time the meeting was adjourned at 11:30 p.m., more than half of the public had left. An attorney had been hired by an objector, but was unable to attend the hearing due to personal reasons.
Attorney Adam Pfeffer represented the congregation before the board, and brought a number of witnesses before the board.
“The township has already decided that this is an appropriate zone,” Mr. Pfeffer told the board. “Both for the house of worship and the school, and that’s written in your own ordinances.”
Mr. Pfeffer was referring to the RLUIPA laws, or the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which the township follows. The law protects houses of worship and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws.
The main focus of the Board of Adjustment regarding the establishment of the school was how residential traffic would be impacted and the safety of the students.
The property itself has three structures, the main synagogue/proposed school, and two smaller buildings. One of the buildings would be used as a single-family residence for the synagogue’s head rabbi, and the other building, which is currently boarded up, does not have a planned use yet.
According to the plans submitted to the board, the main structure, which is 16,850 square feet, would have four classrooms, a kitchen, a number of offices and a main hall with a capacity for over 500 people. Mr. Pfeffer’s first witness, Rabbi David Pollak, the school’s administrator, said that the kitchen would not be used, and dining services including breakfast, lunch and dinner would be taken care of by an external caterer.
The other two buildings are 1,950 square feet, and 2,500 square feet.
Mr. Pollack said that there will be a maximum of 100 students at the school, along with 12 instructors and one maintenance worker, if the board were to rule in favor of the applicant.
The rabbi also said that the school day would begin at 7:50 a.m. and end at 9:30 p.m., Sunday through Friday. The rabbi did clarify that ninth and tenth graders would leave school at 8:30 p.m., and all students would leave at noon on Fridays to celebrate the Sabbath.
Regarding transportation of the students, Rabbi Pollak told the board that five, 12-passenger vans would bring a majority of students to the school, and the remaining students would be brought to school via a carpool system.
Justin Taylor, the traffic operation engineer expert on the project, stated that about 40 percent of students will be carpooled, and 60 percent will be transported in the externally contracted vans.
Mr. Taylor also said that the traffic surrounding the property will not be overwhelmed during the drop-off/pick-up times for the school. Due to the school’s drop-off/pick-up times differing from those of surrounding schools, there won’t be a heavy influx of traffic, Mr. Taylor said.
The board did request an official study of the traffic flow surrounding the property in question, and expected more specific traffic details during the meeting’s continuation.
The board will continue the hearing at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 at 270 Chambers Bridge Road.
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