The end is in sight for Chabad of the Shore's application before the Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to build a synagogue in West End.
The board heard the final testimony in the case on Monday night and will conclude the case during a special meeting on March 11, Long Branch zoning board Chairwoman Terry Janeczek said.
At that time, the board will ask any final questions they have, and the public will also have a chance to be heard before the board votes on the application.
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 south 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 utilize the site and also obtain some minor bulk variances for parking and setbacks.
Thomas Hirsch, an attorney representing several West End business owners, cross-examined Chabad of the Shore's planner Richard Preiss on Monday night and argued that a synagogue is not a beneficial use in a commercial zone.
Hirsch said the synagogue will not bring the same benefits to the area that a permitted use such as a store or restaurant would bring.
Preiss agreed, but said that the building would "still be a draw, just maybe not to the extent of a retail use."
Janeczek said approving the synagogue would not follow the city's master plan which calls for smaller scale businesses in the C-3 zone.
Preiss said the sanctuary said his interpretation of the master plan leads him to believe that the sanctuary will still fulfill its requirements, including bringing foot traffic to the area.
It was also revealed during the testimony that Chabad of the Shore attempted to build its synagogue at two different Ocean Avenue locations and another location on West End Court, but that they never materialized.