Randolph tells rabbi he's violating zoning laws
House being used as place of worship in residential neighborhood
BY MATT MANOCHIO
>RANDOLPH -- The township will issue zoning summonses to the Chabad Center of Randolph for holding services in a West Hanover Avenue home that is zoned strictly for residential use, township manager John Lovell said on Thursday.
Lovell met with Rabbi Avraham Bechor earlier this week to inform him that summonses would be delayed out of respect for the High Holy Days.
"The house in question was built in 2004, 2005,"Lovell said. "The developer received variances from the board of adjustment to build as a single-family home. During construction there was a permit change to convert a three-bay garage into a family (billiards) room, and a request to move the kitchen upstairs. They got a letter and understood that it was ... a residential use only."
Lovell said the township received complaints from neighbors over parking issues, including people using the center who parked on the lawn. There apparently were school services held for children there, as well, Lovell said.
"All those uses require certain improvements under the fire code, under the construction code of Randolph Township,"Lovell said.
Lovell added that the septic system was build for a four-bedroom home, not an assembly.
"Then there's the underlying zoning," Lovell said.
The home has a single residential driveway that is unfit for parking large numbers of vehicles. The same could be said for the lawn, he said, which could be destroyed if people park on it during inclement weather.
Bechor did not want to comment on Thursday.
"At this point I'd prefer not to discuss this," Bechor said when reached by phone on Thursday.
"Maybe in the future ... as of now the whole issue is very premature."
Lovell met with Bechor on Monday to explain that, if he wanted to continue to use the house, he would have to make the required changes to the home and would need the township's approval to do so.
"In recognition (of the) holiest part of the year, it wasn't the time to take action to close the Chabad Center," Lovell said.
"We would work with them through this holy period, but we were looking for compliance thereafter."
Lovell said Bechor was kind and invited Lovell into the center. Lovell was shown the prayer area for the men, and the seating for children and wives.
Bechor also said many of the participants walk to the center, making it a low-impact use on the community, Lovell said.
"I do appreciate all those arguments, but the bottom line to all of this is, it would be much better if they sought all the approvals to open the Chabad Center,"Lovell said.
Howard Spear, a land-use attorney who will represent Bechor before the township, said he wasn't fully familiar with all aspects of the case, but said, "We intend to do what we're supposed to do. That's why I was called in here. We expect to do the right thing."