Ocean Township has reached a settlement over a $3.3 million lawsuit filed by Yeshiva Gedolah Na’os Yaakov, Inc., based in Lakewood, over the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s denial of its application to create a residential rabbinical school on Logan Road in the Wanamassa section.
Mayor Christopher Siciliano and Township Attorney Martin Arbus said the settlement was reached after a 10-hour mediation meeting between the plaintiffs (Gedola Na’os Yaakov, Inc. and Zebra Holdings, LLC), the township and the insurance companies after sitting before retired Supreme Court Justice Eugene D. Serpantelli.
“The best deal for the township would have been winning the case, but that did not happen. But, all things considered, we did the best we could and minimized the damage,” Siciliano said.
Siciliano said the original $3.3 million claim was eventually reduced to $750,000 with the township’s insurance carrier paying about 85 percent of that cost and the township, after applying tax sales proceeds on the property, ending up paying about $50,000.
Siciliano said it was also ruled that the yeshiva will have to adhere to the original site plan it presented in its application.
“That site plan is on file and they will have to complete that work,” he said.
After the Board of Adjustment denied the application late last year, Yeshiva Gedolah Na’os Yaakov filed a 79-page complaint stating 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.
A federal judge recently approved the creation of a Talmudic Academy to house college-age students at an existing school on Logan Road Ocean Township’s Wanamassa section.
A U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment violated federal law when it unanimously voted on April 26 to deny a use variance to Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov to provide housing for up to 96 college-age students. The judge did, however, limit the number of students to a maximum of 80.
The judge made her decision on the RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act)- a federal law created in 2000 grants houses of worship and other religious institutions broad protection against discrimination in zoning and land use laws.
Township officials eventually decided not to appeal the court’s decision- a move that upset some residents.
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 Talmudic Academy’s dormitory for adult-age student was not a permitted use in the zone. To approve a college-age boarding school use, the zoning board had to look at each condition and, in this case, these conditions were not being met which is why the matter was before them. The zoning board was being asked to approve the relief the yeshiva needs- in this case, more and older students.