Ocean Township residents continue to turn out in large numbers to oppose creating a dormitory for 96 college-age students at a proposed Talmudic academy in an existing school on Logan Road.
More than 200 residents turned out on Mon., May 18 to hear further testimony on the application before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, with some ignoring regular board protocol, resulting in occasional contentious situations between board officials and residents.
Board President Warren Goode had to explain several times that residents can only cross-examine and ask questions of the particular witness testifying that evening, not make general remarks about the application. That will come at a later date, he explained.
At one point, Goode refused to take further questions from one resident after he said that Board Attorney Mark A. Steinberg “is not doing a very good job” and that the board looked disinterested during testimony.
Resident Ed Horn, who has been attending the meetings, urges the public to be polite and patient.
“People need to understand that they have to follow the rules. And, at some point, we will all have our chance to speak once the testimony is complete. Everybody will be able to state their piece to the board- and they will have their chance,” he said after the meeting.
Horn, who lives on Logan Road near the school, said he has already distributed 375 “No Dorm On Logan Road” signs and that there is a demand for more.
The signs have been become a common site in the township’s Wanamassa section. The board meetings are being held at the High School due to the unusually large crowds.
“The community is still very much against the boarding school and I think that has a lot to do with the age of the students,” he said.
Yeshiva Gedolah Na’os Yaakov is seeking approval to use a former elementary school, at 1515 Logan Road in the Wanamassa section, to house the academy.
The Lakewood-based school, which specializes in Rabbinical and Talmudic studies, is seeking a use variance to house 96 male students, ages 18 to 22 and who will live on-site, which is a 2.9-acre parcel, with 336-feet of frontage on Logan Road.
The site was originally approved as an elementary school in 1989 and a dormitory use was granted in 1997 that allowed for the boarding of students in grades 9 through 12, with no student being older than 18. A maximum number of 50 people, including students and staff, were permitted on site between midnight and 6 a.m. This boarding use was eventually discontinued but still remains in effect, with the original conditions.
The proposed Talmudic Academy’s dormitory for adult-age student is not a permitted use in the zone and five out of the seven zoning board members, or two thirds, must vote in favor for any use change to go into effect.
To approve a college-age boarding school use, the zoning board has to look at each condition. The zoning board is being asked to approve the relief the yeshiva needs- in this case, more and older students.
“It’s not that you can’t have a boarding school, just not the one they are proposing,” Zoning Board Administrator Marianne Wilensky said.
“It’s not about the boarding school use, per se, rather it’s about a boarding school with more than 50 students and ages 18 to 22,” said Jennifer Krimko, lawyer for the applicant.
The site is surrounded mostly by residential properties, with the Dave Dahrouge Park across Logan Rd. and some commercial properties to the west.