By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
A new charter school in Asbury Park will have to wait three more weeks before it learns if it will gain approval to move students into the First Baptist Church at Third and Grand avenues.
At this week’s Board of Adjustment meeting board members heard final witnesses testify on behalf of College Achieve Charters School, Inc. by Attorney Andrew Karas.
The board did not vote on the application because police officers, who have investigated and assessed the site for safety, were not available to testify.
Board Chair Chris Avallone said he was assured by Chief David Kelso that a police officer would be at the Oct. 24 zoning board meeting.
City Planner Katherine Gregory testified on behalf of the charter school, saying although a school is not officially authorized in the area, which is zoned for professional offices, professional planning standards universally consider whether a new enterprise is “beneficial to the community.”
These types of enterprises, she said, are usually schools, hospitals and solar or wind energy facilities, saying they are generally thought to be “inherently beneficial.”
Gregory presented a list of positive criteria and detrimental effects and said in her opinion the positive criteria was evident and the negative did not present “substantial detriment.”
She cited the fact that the church had been used as a school before and the traffic impact could be an inconvenience to nearby residents but was not substantially detrimental.
She also cited past zoning board decisions, including one out of Clifton that states that a school is “the highest and best use” of municipal property.
The board asked that the traffic engineer, William Stimmel, who testified at the last meeting answer questions again.
Board Member Brittany Ashman questioned him about the use of a bike lane, the only one in the city, and how traffic would affect the school from buses or cars.
She said people who use the lane getting to and from work may be riding during the morning drop off time.
Stimmel said he did not see a significant impact.
“Cars have to be careful, like all cars do (near) bike lanes,” he said.
Ashman said if buses and cars are double parked bike riders could be obstructed.
Grand Avenue resident Sharon Krengel is opposed to the charter school opening in her neighborhood, and is concerned for the safety of the children arriving to and leaving school. She said she moved into a home which her father, who was a doctor, owned and had his office in.
She believes the neighborhood has changed in the years since the Central Jersey Christian School was housed in the First Baptist Church.
Her husband Charles Liebman, who is an attorney, has been representing her at meetings.
“Grand Avenue used to be all offices, but now people are converting them to residential,” she said.
Krengel said she believes resident parking could be impacted in the area and also said she does not want to see the peace and quiet of the neighborhood disrupted.
The issue will be on the agenda for the next meeting Tues., Oct. 24 when Asbury Park police officers are expected to testify.