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Freehold business owner fighting cease and desist order

By Matthew Sockol
Staff Writer

FREEHOLD – The owner of the Amazing Escape Room, 77 W. Main St., has been granted a stay of a cease and desist order that was issued by Freehold Borough.

The stay of the cease and desist order is scheduled to expire on June 15. It could not immediately be determined what the expiration of the stay would mean for the Amazing Escape Room.

The business is owned by Howard Klotzkin and has been in operation since the summer of 2015.

The cease and desist order was issued after borough officials determined the Amazing Escape Room is not a permitted use in the zone in which it is operating. The business is in a B-1 zone, which permits offices of members of recognized professions, banks, funeral homes, photography studios, music, dance and art studios, and public institutions of higher education.

In a zoning application filed by Klotzkin on May 10, 2015, the Amazing Escape Room was described as a team-building business where people from companies and organizations, or a group of individuals, work together for the purpose of team building and becoming closer.

Klotzkin said he spent more than $100,000 to establish the business.

According to Business Administrator Joseph Bellina, a municipal investigation of the Amazing Escape Room was prompted by complaints from neighbors regarding noise, large groups of people congregating in and around the property, traffic and other issues.

He said the investigation determined the description of the business’s proposed use in its initial application was not reflective of the activity being conducted at the site.

In November, borough officials deemed the business an entertainment center and directed Klotzkin to file an application for a use variance by Dec. 15.

After a series of examinations, maneuvers and actions, the Planning Board in April upheld the municipality’s determination that the Amazing Escape Room is not a permitted use in the B-1 zone. Attorney Vincent Halleran, who represents Klotzkin, notified borough officials the matter will be appealed in state Superior Court.

About a month after the board’s ruling, Klotzkin received a cease and desist notice from zoning officer Matthew Young which directed him to stop operating the business on or before June 3.

In response, Klotzkin filed a verified complaint against the borough and Young in Superior Court on June 3.

“If this (cease and desist) notice is enforced, my company and I will suffer irreparable harm,” Klotzkin said in the complaint’s certification. “We will lose the business which is scheduled to be conducted, our clients will be greatly inconvenienced, we will probably lose the clients who are so inconvenienced and we are obligated to continue to pay rent for the property that we will not be permitted to use.”

He asserted that the continued operation of the Amazing Escape Room will not result in any substantial harm to Freehold Borough.

“It should be noted that the primary (objections) to our use of the property are from the owners of neighboring properties which are non-conforming uses in the B-1 zone, a church and two residential dwellings,” he said.

Klotzkin is seeking a permanent restraining order preventing the borough from enforcing the cease and desist order until his appeal of the Planning Board decision has been resolved.

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