The 4.2-acre site — the former location of a Tutor Time day care center — sits at the corner of White Oak Ridge Road and South Orange Avenue, officially in Livingston.
Rabbi Mendel Solomon, who leads Ahavath Torah, called the agreement with current owner TMB Partners “a miracle,” since the site requires no variances and no additional restrictions, and doesn’t require the construction of a new building. The community will retrofit the existing building and add landscaping, but will not undertake a major renovation, said Solomon.
Solomon has withdrawn an application for a zoning variance for a different site, signaling expectations that the deal for the property at 650 South Orange Ave. will go through. An official closing date has not been set.
The news ends a long battle between TMB Partners, a development company, and the Livingston Short Hills Coalition, comprised of residents from both towns. The developer had been planning to build a housing development of over 60 units, with 12 set aside for affordable housing, at the site. Residents opposed the plan almost from its inception.
TMB Partners could not be reached for comment.
Chabad of Short Hills had applied for a zoning variance in February 2015 to build a 7,000-square-foot synagogue at 316 and 320 White Oak Ridge Rd. in Short Hills to replace its current 2,800-square-foot building at 320 White Oak Ridge Rd. That request has been withdrawn.
Ahavath Torah began in 1993 as “Izzy’s Shul,” a small Orthodox minyan started by Isadore Spiegel in his Short Hills home. Solomon began leading services in 1995, originally on a part-time basis. Since 2000, the community has been operating as a synagogue and community center at 320 White Oak Ridge Rd.
“First and foremost, we will finally have a shul in town,” said Solomon, who now works full-time at the synagogue.
Solomon said he approached TMB Partners shortly after the High Holy Days last fall at the suggestion of a colleague. “It was a shot in the dark,” he said. The former Tutor Time site does not require restrictions with regard to noise, space, and operations that would have been necessary at the White Oak Ridge site.
Solomon hopes the site will be ready for use by Rosh Hashana next September.