No Decision on West End Synagogue Until 2013
Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment hears more testimony from rabbi
The public will have until next year to see the resolution of Chabad of the Shore's application to build a large synagogue and other space in West End.
During Monday night's hearing on the application, Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment Chairwoman Terry Janeczek said the next time available to hear testimony would be January.
Chabad wishes to build a 2-story building that contains a 200-seat sanctuary, a 200-person capacity multipurpose room with a kitchen on the second floor; and a five classrooms, office space and a room for religious services on the second floor.
The plan would include the demolition of a old movie theater on Ocean Avenue and two stores north of the structure.
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.
Rabbi Leibel Shapiro, of Chabad of the Shore, was questioned by the board and West End Business Association attorney Thomas Hirsch.
Rabbi Shapiro reiterated that the there will never be more than 200 people in the building at one point.
"There won't be more than 200 in the building at one time," Rabbi Shapiro said. "That's not the intention of the place and not in our plans for the future."
The city's uniform construction code requires that one parking space be made available for every four people who are seated in a building such as this. The plan calls for 50 parking spaces in the rear of the property, meaning that no more than 200 people can be in the building at one point.
Rabbi Shapiro said larger events would require reservations and that no more than 200 reservations would be taken.
"For events with more than 200 people, we would go elsewhere," he said.
He said a Chabad of the Shore celebration for Rosh Hashanah was held at Ocean Place, and that similar events would be held there if the new synagogue is built.
Rabbi Shapiro said most of the people who come to Chabad of the Shore's current location at 620 and 622 Ocean Avenue, often walk. He said the reason he chose the proposed location was because there is a "tremendous need in the area" and that there was enough parking there to satisfy the city's ordinance for the 200-seat sanctuary and multipurpose room.
Janeczek said she felt that because Chabad of the Shore is looking to grow its congregation and expand, that the building may not be big enough for their purposes.
"In reality, this spot is not big enough for you," Janeczek said. "To me the numbers don't match."
Rabbi Shapiro disagreed.
"I believe the facility will meet our needs with the exception of a few times a year," he said. "We believe it will meet our long-term needs."
Rabbi Shapiro also said he intends to allow the public to use Chabad's parking lot.
"Our intention is to make the parking available to the businesses when we don't need it and as long as it doesn't affect zoning needs," he said. "We are willing to come up with a plan that can benefit everybody."
Board member Robert Dooley said Chabad should check with its insurance carrier to make sure that it is allowed to share the parking with the public, and Janeczek said that could actually be a condition of approval for the case.
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.
Janeczek also asked Rabbi Shapiro if Chabad of the Shore is looking into becoming code compliant at it current location. He previously admitted when questioned by the board that religious services are held at that location and that it is not a permitted use.
Janeczek also said she did not believe a building permit was given when Chabad expanded its current location to include two addresses on Ocean Avenue.
"We are working on it now," Rabbi Shapiro said.
"Just make sure whatever can be taken care of is done soon so that we are not dealing with this in February or March or whenever this is decided," Janeczek added.