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Jackson zoning board grants variance for synagogue on South New Prospect Road

JACKSON – The members of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment have unanimously granted a conditional use variance that will permit the operation of a synagogue on an undersized lot on South New Prospect Road.

During a meeting on Dec. 1, zoning board Chairman Scott Najarian, Vice Chairman Steve Costanzo, Carl Book Jr., Toniann Comello, Jeanine Fritch, Lynne Bradley and James Hurley voted “yes” on a motion to grant the conditional use variance.

The applicant WSNP, LLC, was seeking a conditional use variance to establish a synagogue on an undersized lot in an R-1 zone.

The owner and applicant proposed to combine two lots into one undersized lot for the house of worship use. A 2-acre lot is required for a house of worship and the two lots combined equal 1.8 acres.

Attorney Adam Pfeffer, engineer Glen Lines and planner Cristine Cofone represented the application.

Pfeffer said a house of worship is a conditionally permitted use, but he said the site did not meet all of the required conditions.

The attorney said if the applicant received the variance it would return at a later date to seek site plan approval. A proposed lighting plan and a proposed circulation plan were presented to the zoning board.

There are two homes currently at the location. The applicant was proposing to use one home as the synagogue, Lines said, adding that several sheds and a pool will be removed from the property. The second home will be for the rabbi who serves the synagogue.

The applicant proposed a 20-space parking lot for the synagogue with an entrance opposite a traffic signal at Woodlane and New Prospect roads.

Lines described the site’s accessibility and said “there is a walkway across along South New Prospect Road that ends at the property line for Lot 23. There is now a walking path through what is Lot 31, which is a township owned lot, which goes behind houses on Hickory Hill Road and accesses the back of our property. There is also another walking path which goes down behind houses on Hickory Hill Road and comes out between lots 11 and 12.”

Lines was asked who maintains the walkways and he said the walkways are maintained by the Harmony Farms homeowners association.

“Where do the majority of the proposed congregants walk from? The majority of the congregants live in this development and this is an existing path that has been there from before our proposal came,” Pfeffer said.

The congregants can also walk on South New Prospect Road.

“They can walk out of the development, make a left on South New Prospect Road and walk on that walking path which is along the street to the property. The rear from Hickory Hill Road is a convenience factor; if that was not there and they could not get to it they could still walk on South New Prospect Road,” Pfeffer said.

The applicant proposed there will be upward of 60 congregants.

During her testimony, Cofone said the application was for a conditional use for an inherently beneficial use – a house of worship.

“When you look at the building coverage and the total impervious coverage on this site that would be permissible, you are allowed 15% building coverage and we are at 5.09%. You are allowed 50% lot coverage and we are at 34.2%,” Cofone said.

She said there is ample room on the property for the required parking.

Cofone said the application complies with Jackson’s master plan in regard to achieving community planning objectives that include quality residential neighborhoods, the protection of natural resources, the economic development of the community and the creation of a livable and desirable community.

“Certainly having houses of worship, in my opinion as a planner, are part of a livable and desirable community. When you look at the fact that 90% of the people who worship here will be walking to the site, I think you can conclude it would be consistent with the master plan which talks about creating a livable and desirable community,” she said.

Following the conclusion of the applicant’s testimony, the board members voted to grant the conditional use variance for the synagogue.

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