Got this on my Newcomers email. Please attend this meeting.

Town group asks Millburn to stop making zoning exceptions.
Case in point: proposed 16,350 square foot house of worship to be
constructed on residential property that is more than an acre
shy of the legal or required size.
MILLBURN, N.J. February 8, 2010 - A non-profit group of local residents named The Concerned
Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township (also called is asking all interested
residents to attend an open public informational meeting this coming week.
The meeting will be to discuss the possibility of The Chai Center for Living Judaism getting a substantial
variance that would allow them to tear down two current homes and replace them with a massive new
building at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road.
The informational meeting is open to all residents and will be held at the Bauer Center
in Taylor Park this coming Wednesday evening February 10th at 7:30pm.
Save Millburn is imploring officials on the Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment to not make substantial
zoning exceptions since the town has a full town wide approved Zoning Ordinance. If the Zoning Ordinance
needs changes, by all means it should be updated and amended but on a town wide basis. Otherwise, our
group doesn't accept special zoning for special interests anywhere in Millburn. Allowing substantial
variances can hurt a great town's plan.
The Chai Center is bringing a team of lawyers, engineers, architects, planners and traffic experts to the
Zoning Board of Adjustment at Town Hall on March 1st at 7pm asking for a substantial variance to the
approved Zoning Ordinance to build their 16,350 square foot building. Any resident can attend. Check
the website should this date be moved for any reason.
Background Facts
•Millburn zoning allows a house of worship to be built in a residential area but requires it to be on a minimum 3 acres.
•The Chai Center group has only 1.815 acres of the required 3 acres even after combining their properties at number
1 and 7 Jefferson Avenue (corner lot facing Old Short Hills Road).
•The Chai Center is asking that the height of the structure be allowed to go above town approved height of 32 feet.
•The Chai Center proposes many of the 48 car parking spaces be allowed to be closer to neighbors properties than the
required 50-foot buffer.
•The Chai Center proposes that entrances/exits be added on Old Short Hills Road which is already heavy with traffic
and is the main thoroughfare for ambulances to and from St. Barnabas Hospital.
•The Chai Center proposes large signage or identification on Old Short Hills Road.
•The Chai Center wants to have a screened dumpster enclosure, an underground storage facility for storm water,
fences, walkways and extensive landscaping.
•The Chai Center is currently conducting services and holding classes with many cars parking on the front yard, back
yard and on neighboring streets.
SAVE MILLBURN is the name for the local, registered, non-profit group,
The Concerned Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township, Inc. 2010 or write:

I can see why people are concerned about this issue. I wouldn't want such a large structure on an undersized lot buildt ontop of my neighborhood.

How big is this Chai Center's membership? I always thought it was pretty small.

Of course the house across the street was on the market years back for about $12,000,000 -- maybe they'll just buy that, consolidate and then have their 3 acres......

Wasn't there a settlement between the Town and the Center a few months ago of zoning disputes? I don't know if this plan goes beyond that settlement or not.

Under a Clinton era law it is almost impossible to use zoning laws to restrict houses of worship. Maplewood found this out with the new Mormon Church on Springfield Avenue.

One of my friends lives in West Orange next to a house of worship with a similar situation. At the time of the zoning board hearings, the neighbors were told there would be little traffic, no encroachment on properties, etc...

The reality is, traffic in and out of parking lot is constant throughout the day with cars and buses. There have been multiple car accidents due to traffic. The building gets VERY heavy use almost 20 hours per day as it as much of a community center and it is a house of worship.

I feel for the residents of Millburn, and wish them well, this application is not a benefit for the town or neighborhood.

Received this as another point of info in answer to my question to the Millburn Group and think it answers Bobk:

You did read this right - it is before the Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment. We think they will begin hearings on this case on March 1.

I do believe that on the merits alone the variances should be denied. The issue is that houses of worship are considered inherently of "beneficial use" and therefore the onus is on the community to prove an adverse effect on the quality of life. The only way to do this is if we get a lot of people involved that show up for the meeting with the Zoning Board of Adjustment and they register the displeasure of the local community with the proposed plans.

That said , it is important for people to show up on Wednesday to understand what the Concerned Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township has been doing and exactly how residents can help (monetarily as well as civically).

Pass this around to your friends and family that live in Millburn/Short Hills. This is not a neighborhood issue - it as a community wide issue. If the board does grant the variances, other non-commercial non-residential developments (day care, old age homes, low-income housing and the like) could easily use this precedent for further development in any residential neighborhood.

Thanks for your interest and look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.

It looks like there's more interest in the Hilton Spa being closed than what is going on in our backyards.:facepalm::facepalm::facepalm:

Looks like this will be snowed out -- any alternate date planned?

I would imagine that the meeting will be postponed due to the inclement weather forecast for the 10th Feb?

I have checked with the people organizing this and unfortunately there is no other date if it is postponed.

Looks like the meeting has been cancelled for tonight. If I find out anything more I will post.

Last week, The Concerned Neighborhood Association of Millburn Township informational meeting was canceled because of snow. The new meeting date for this potential zoning ordinance exception is Wednesday, Feb. 24th, 7:30pm at the Bauer Center in Taylor Park.

Please bring friends and neighbors. Details of the issue are on the group's website which is

I have been very critical of Rabbi Bogomilsky here and elsewhere in the past.

But that was because he was trying to act with stealth and ignore the zoning board.

However, now that he is going before the zoning board to properly request a variance I think his request should get a fair hearing and should be given the preferences that are required by Federal law and that I think are appropriate for religious institutions.

Hopefully the zoning board will look at the proposal without being swayed by pressure from either side and will make a fair ruling.

But imo the proposal does not appear out of line to the siting of other religious institutions or to variances granted to other religious institutions, including ones recently granted to the synagogue I belong to in Summit; variances that have been upheld by the courts.

There was a bit more info about the meeting about the synagogue application which turned 'heated' in this 'Millburn Patch' report:

I found this comment interesting: "...Bogomilsky said the organization could buy a neighboring property if it became available to make the three acres, but the room would still be full with people opposing the application".....

TBH if I lived in one of these 'neighboring properties' and the current application was passed, then I don't think I would want to stay in that house for long! Is Bogomilsky indirectly trying to irritate the neighbors enough that they will throw in the towel and sell up? Orthodox Jews don't drive on the Sabbath, but there are six other days when cars (with their doors slamming, engines starting up etc.) and the general noise from people chatting - will be arriving at all hours of the day and into the evenings. The parking lot seems sizeable to begin with, and once the 'Chai Center' becomes officially established, then it will grow and grow as more congregants move into the local area and inevitably cars will then have to park on the street.

Perhaps Bogomilsky is hoping that the current neighbors will just sell their property to him? At any rate, I would imagine that it will depress the value of their property to have a synagogue replacing a single family home in a residential area. I do realize that there are churches and synagogues in other areas of the township - some of the churches are as old as the township itself - but does anyone know how many of them were originally family homes which then converted into religious buildings, or were most of them built on spare plots of land?

It has been a traffic nightmare during non sabbath holiday celebrations currently, even without the variance being approved. It would only get worse. This is a residential neighborhood. Most other houses of worship in town were establish long before the neighborhoods they serve!

I have found that most synagogues such as this (from living in Pleasantdale area of West Orange) ARE a HUGE traffic burden to the neighborhood. These temples are heavily used from the early morning to the late evening/night. Overnight parking is a constant every Sabbath and Jewish Holiday.

More and more seem to be opening, West Orange has 5 or 6 synagogues in a 3 mile area, 3 of which are converted homes!

I have no problem with people wishing to worship in an established building, but the WO Zoning Board has let this issue get out of control.

If anyone needs any previous cases to back up their reasons for NOT having a place of worship in a residential area: Please read this:

(BTW, on certain holidays, traffic on this single lane road can be backed up for miles as people travel from out of state to visit)

Another round of hearings set for Hindu temple project in Bridgewater
By Christopher N. Dela Cruz
April 19, 2009, 7:00AM

It's nearly five years since the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple appeared before the Bridgewater board of adjustment seeking a large-scale expansion of its prosperous temple.

A previous expansion of the temple -- a 10,000-square-foot construction of a religious processional walkway, had just been completed when the temple returned to the board in 2004 with a far more ambitious proposal.
Frank H. Conlon/The Star-LedgerSri Venkateswara Temple in Bridgewater, on Thursday August 2, 2007. The temple has been fighting with Bridgewater and its neighbors to build a large new cultural center and housing for 12 priests.

The new plan included apartment housing for live-in priests and their families, a parking garage, and plans to rebuild the temple's modest 9,800-square-foot cultural center as a state-of-the-art religious and cultural complex nearly four times the size, replete with a performance space and dining area.

Neighbors of the 20.5-acre property off Route 202/206 balked, packing board of adjustment hearings. Residents warned of an inevitable spike in membership from out-of-town and out-of-state worshippers, resulting in increased traffic and noise.

Since the plan was first introduced, the board has denied the necessary variances for the cultural center expansion three times, first in January 2005, then again in December 2005 and May 2006. The temple has filed two lawsuits -- one state, one federal.

Meanwhile, the temple has purchased neighboring properties, increasing the size of its property by another four acres. And the expansion plan has been pared down -- a smaller cultural center, less parking and smaller-scale, multi-family homes instead of an apartment building for priests.

Now, for township officials, temple leaders and neighbors, it's deja vu all over again. The newest version of the plan is back for a fourth round of hearings before the board. This time, however, it should meet are more amenable board. A year ago, in the run-up to a federal religious discrimination trial, the temple and the board reached a settlement that would allow the expansion of the temple and dismiss the lawsuit.

Despite the agreement, the temple must present a new plan to the board and go through the public hearing process from scratch. Hearings began in February and will continue Tuesday, April 21. The lawsuit will only be dismissed if the expansion is approved.

"We're coming to the end of a very long thing," said the temple's attorney, Frank Petrino. "Let's hope it's a good end."

According to the agreement, the temple will be allowed to build a 20,500-square-foot cultural center -- 17,500 square feet less than originally proposed. In return, the temple agreed it would not return to the board for any expansion requiring a variance for 10 years. Housing for priests was approved for 11 units in five multi-family homes, including an existing house on Old Farm Road.

Additionally, an access permit for a new entrance to the temple from Route 202/206 has been approved by the state Department of Transportation. Visitors will be discouraged from using the old entrance off Old Farm Road.

The temple will also be limited to holding five events a year that require off-site parking. The temple's largest annual event, the popular Indian-American festival, was moved off-site to the 4-H fairgrounds at North Branch Park last year.

After presenting the history of the application at a hearing in February, board attorney Lawrence Vastola called the memorandum of understanding signed between the board and the temple "a rational resolution."

Neighbors of the temple have again packed the new round of hearings. The latest plan includes 491 surface parking spaces and moves the new cultural center away from the main road, to the south side of the property, near the Sanofi-Aventis office complex. The new structures will be buffered by a "significant amount of landscaping," the temple's engineer, Richard Cannarella, told the board in February.

The two-story cultural center will have an expandable auditorium, a dining area and a separate cafeteria. Temple professionals described new religious elements of the plan, like a drive-through car port that would be used to bless cars, but stressed the new buildings were designed to better serve an existing community in all elements of their worship.

"It's going to be the same number of people doing the same things," said architect Al Widmer.

But neighbors still questioned the terms of the agreement. Resident Victor Palumbo said the cultural center did not seem critical to the temple's worship services, noting that the current 28,300-square-foot temple seemed adequate.

"Isn't 28,000 square feet enough? How much more square feet do you need to worship?" Palumbo asked.

Diane Mine, who lives on nearby Cedarbrook Road, said the 10-year moratorium on expansion was too short.

"Is that negotiable?" she said. "I feel like we've been here for 10 years."

I don't see anything on Save Millburn's website about hiring a planner. I'm sure they must know this, but they have no shot of defeating this application unless they have a locally esteemed professional planner getting up and picking apart the other side's application. The planner iplays a much more important than a lawyer in zoning presentations.

What I don't understand is this: How is it that the town can allow a tax-generating property to be converted to a tax-exempt property? If the Chai Center already owns two pieces of property that were formerly residences and is thinking about purchasing a third, that could be anywhere from $60,000 to $90,000 in property taxes that the town loses. Is the loss picked up by the rest of the homeowners in town? How does that work?

Yes, if granted house of worship status, property would become tax exempt. Rest of taxpayers would absorb the reallocated taxes...

when is the next meeting? was a meeting canceled - if so, why?

Well, get ready for the property to be a big shul used for a: pre-school, summer camp, religious school, day care center and who knows what else, 7 days a week. This has happened in towns all over the United States. They already lied (remember this was just people getting together, yeah right) - so why believe anything they say? Get ready for schools and camp - school buses, vans etc. for transporting kids all over NJ and maybe to Brooklyn, too. Big carpool line, too. Where the people will come from, I don't know, cause there are very, very few followers of this sect here. (Many Jews here, but not followers of the missionary group Chabad- which is what this shul is, part of a missionary sect looking for followers.) Old Short hills rd will become more of a nightmare. If you complain, they will feign shock (they mastered that fake response, and then of course accuse their opponents of anti-semitism ) and will accuse you of spewing hate toward Jews (even if you are a Jew, even if that makes no sense at all.) Get ready for the buses, carpool lines, the fumes, the traffic on Jefferson & Old Short Hills Rd having increased potential for accidents and the NOISE -- all on a RESIDENTIAL lot. There will need to be a traffic light installed, as Old Short hills Rd. is already so busy. Adding this busy commercial building will throw the traffic situation over the edge.
Is there a traffic study? What are the results?
and is this house historic? Where's the historic committee on this? Can we just turn historic homes in town into public spaces?

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My.

Posted By: stateguyLions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My.

What Footballmom says is true.... If this is approved, then the Town will also have to pick up the cost of busing the children (and we are not talking about 2-3 kids per family, but more like 5 or 6) to private schools ( and none of these children will go to a non-secular school), none of which are very close. The school buses will have to go to Elizabeth or Livingston.

I could not drive on Jefferson this morning.... 10 cars were parked on the street leaving hardly any space for even one car to pass. Do you need a permit for this?

footballmom - did you notify the police? What if a fire truck needed to get down the street?

When the zoning board meets on this, show up with a list of questions, and make sure as you ask every question so the responses are noted in the minutes.

Posted By: MsSumidaWhen the zoning board meets on this, show up with a list of questions, and make sure as you ask every question so the responses are noted in the minutes.

It's going to take more than concerned citizens asking questions to stop this. It's going to take hiring a cadre of professionals at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to testify regarding what the detrimental impacts of the proposed development will be.

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