Lakewood: Court Overturns Rushed Zoning Board Approval

>>Follow Matzav On Whatsapp!<<

An Ocean County judge overturned an approval by the Lakewood Township Zoning Board which allowed four houses in an area not intended to accommodate more than one, saying that the board was wrong by not giving neighbors adequate time to present professional testimony.

The case involved a proposed development in the area of Vine Street and Washington Avenue, in which a developer received a density variance to construct 4 homes in an R-40 zone on lots that are 63% smaller than required – meaning that instead of allotting nearly an acre for each house, only about 15,000 square feet would be used. Neighbors raised objections, including saying that building more homes than the area was zoned for would impact the traffic patterns in the already traffic-plagued neighborhood, and they hired an attorney to represent them before the Zoning Board.

After being retained for the case, the neighbor’s attorney requested that the hearing on the variance be carried to a future meeting, so that he would have time to hire professionals to testify before the board about the code’s interpretation and the impact of the extra houses. The board refused and continued on with the application on the agenda, and they voted to approve it that night, November 9, 2020.

In a ruling last week, Ocean County Judge Marlene Lynch Ford ruled that the Zoning Board violated the neighbors’ rights by refusing to carry the application. According to the law, neighbors are allowed to present professional testimony, and failing to give them the time to prepare to do this is grounds to void the approval.

“The interest of these objectors to be able to set forth a meaningful argument before the Board was severely hampered by the refusal of the Board to reschedule this after a brief adjournment,” Judge Ford said. “And the Courts have found in a number of cases that were cited by the plaintiff that a failure to grant a reasonable request for an adjournment so that counsel can be obtained, witnesses can be produced is – is arbitrary, and capricious, and unreasonable behavior that would justify remanding this matter back before the Board… The summary judgment on that basis will be granted. The matter will be remanded to the Board for any further proceedings…”

The judge was unconvinced by some of the other reasons cited for reversing the approval, one being that the public notice was inadequate because it was sent during a Jewish holiday, which gave neighbors less time to respond. The judge said that as long as the notice complied with the Municipal Land Use law, it was sufficient and could not be challenged. But failing to allow objectors to bring professionals was justification for reversal.

Many heralded this decision as a glimmer of hope for local residents, who often watch as their quiet neighborhoods are transformed into overcrowded metropolises without being able to take any meaningful action.

“Deep-pocketed developers often get whatever approvals they need, while neighbors are often too poor or too busy to hire attorneys to defend their neighborhoods and their quality of life,” a neighbor involved in the lawsuit told “This decision is a big win for every Lakewood resident, as it reaffirms that the Land Use Boards in Lakewood are legally mandated to be considerate towards the best interests of everyone in mind, not just a select few.”



  1. All this does is slow down the process as regardless as to what the experts testify, the board will approve whatever the developers want. הכסף יענה את הכל

      • Presumably both the developer and the homeowners are practicing Orthodox Jews. As such, there are halachos that govern land use and it’s effect on neighbors. It’s regrettably telltale that Judge Ford’s involvement still leaves you questioning what the issue has to do with arkois.

        • There is no issur to sue in arkois when the nitva will not appear in a beis din.
          The defendant was the Zoning Board. The Zoning Board is a government body, and cannot be sued in a beis din.
          No issur arkois. End of case.

          • The homeowners who were unhappy with the zoning boards decision had an obligation to call the developer to a Din Torah. If warranted, a heter arkois signed by three dayanim would have been issued. It is important to note that a heter arkois does nothing to minimize the chillul shem shmayim r’l and is thus only issued when no other option is viable.

          • The homeowners acted in total accordance with the halacha. The applicant refused to bring his application to be heard in front of a beis din. It was he that chose to submit himself to the non-jewish government authority. He can’t have it both ways – especially when the government body he used to get his approval will not (and cannot) recognize jewish law and is forbidden to submit itself, when named as a defendant, to any authority besides the state (or federal) court system, as stipulated in the statutes.

            The developer ignored his responsibility to avoid the chillul hashem he caused. Once the government board rendered its decision there’s no going back, as a beis din has zero jurisdiction over non-jewish government bodies.

  2. The developers will have their way with the neighbors and their objections, as the zoning board will find a different route to approve the plan. הכסף יענה את הכל

  3. Most of the objecting neighbors live in developments built using the same type of vairiances this developer wants. Now that they moved in all of a sudden they won’t allow the same thing next door to them.

    • Your comment is based on falsehood. You conveniently manipulate the history. No matter how hard you try, the truth will not change.

  4. 15,000 square feet per house is very reasonable (if anything, more than necessary). And I can’t imagine 4 houses would make a huge difference to any area’s traffic woes.
    That being said, while the specifics here weren’t so bad, there definitely does need to be more oversight over building in Lakewood.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here