Chabad of the Shore's current location in West End
Long Branch: The Chabad of the Shore’s application for a use and bulk variances to construct a synagogue on Ocean Avenue in the West End commercial zone, (where the old movie theater is,) will be reconvened on January 28 before the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. Cross examination of the applicant’s traffic expert’s testimony and its planner’s testimony will proceed, and public comments and questions will be requested before the board makes its decision.
The location is in a C-3 Neighborhood Commercial Zone. Zoning Board Chairperson Terri Janeczek has felt strongly that such an application was inappropriate in a commercial zone and a synagogue use is not permitted in the C-3 zone, neither as a principal nor conditional use. The applicant has said this application is intended to address the point of legal usage. The present use has evolved over the 10 or so years that the offices have been at 620 Ocean Avenue. No city code violations citations have been issued.
The application is for construction of a two-story synagogue with a sanctuary, ancillary offices, classrooms and multi-purpose room and an unfinished cellar. A concern of local businesses and residents as well as the board is parking. The present parking area is private but has been used in the past as if a public area. The applicant says they would open it to public use when not in use by the synagogue- basically Saturdays and high holy days, with details to be worked out with the city.
Applicant changes to initial plans address some Board concerns, including upgrading and opening access to the parking area. Reaming bulk variance issues include setbacks, coverage, and impact on attracting customers to the area, zoned for small businesses and commercial use.
Experts for the applicant believe the parking issues can be met, and the buildings can be designed to minimize deviation from appearance of the business purpose of the area by continuing the business theme. Among the requirements to be addressed are signage differences.
Asked about the tax loss implications to the city if the variance were granted, the applicant replied it would be acceptable since city services such as public would not be incurred. In addition, some added business would occur with synagogue users coming into the area.
There have not been any tax implications information released by the City as far as how much would be lost in property taxes and such.
The applicant has said the congregation wants to be a part of the community and this use, if permitted, will not conflict with Board rulings and limitations it may impose, and not with events in the adjacent city park.