A decision is expected soon on an appeal by Yeshiva Gedolah Na’os Yaakov over a recent Ocean Township Zoning Board of Adjustment decision to deny its application to create a Talmudic Academy to house 96 college-age students in an existing school on Logan Road in the Wanamassa section.
A hearing was held on July 27 before Judge Freda Wolfson in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for New Jersey and another hearing on Aug. 4 before Judge Douglas E. Arpert, who was sitting in for Wolfson since she was on vacation.
According to court records, Yeshiva Gedola requested approval for temporary occupancy at the Logan Road site, $900,000 in monetary damages, reimbursement of legal fees, and waivers of site plan approvals and building permits.
While not giving details of the hearing at this week’s Township Council meeting, Ocean Township Attorney Martin Arbus said that Judge Wilson “was pretty clear’ that the yeshiva use was “inherently beneficial”.
“She pretty much knocked down our own arguments (about why the use was denied). She did not say specifically…but it seemed pretty clear what her position is. But people will have to draw their own conclusions for now,” he said.
Arbus said that the judge has reserved her decision on the case right now but that a decision is expected in the near future.
Mayor Christopher Siciliano said that if a decision is rendered before the next Township Council meeting then a special public meeting will be called to present the judge’s findings.
The applicant or the township can appeal that decision to a higher federal U.S. District Court and it could even possibly make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Siciliano said the township will wait to see what Judge Wolfson rules before making any decision to appeal the case further.
After the Zoning Board of Adjustment denied the application late last year, Yeshiva Gedolah Na’os Yaakov, Inc., based in Lakewood, filed a 79-page complaint on the denial of its application is a violation of the First and 14th Amendments regarding Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and Fair Housing Act.
The Lakewood-based school, which specializes in Rabbinical and Talmudic studies, sought a use variance to house 96 male students, ages 18 to 22, and who would live on-site, which is a 2.9-acre parcel with 336-feet of frontage on Logan Road.
The Logan Road 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.
Hundreds of people attended the 11 public hearings on the yeshiva’s application and
hundreds of white and red “No Dorm On Logan Road” signs, which are privately-printed and funded, were distributed and displayed throughout the township, but mostly in the Wanamassa section.