The hearings remain crowded, with residents lining up on both sides of the issue, as the Millburn Township Zoning Board of Adjustment creeps toward a decision on an Orthodox rabbi’s request to build a 16,350-square-foot synagogue on Jefferson Road.
Over 65 people came to the Millburn Town Hall Dec. 20 to hear the concluding testimony of lighting engineer Laurence Appel and opening testimony of planning expert Paul Glietz, both witnesses for the Chai Center.
Appel faced questions about illumination, light maintenance, and limits on the flow of light beyond the property lines, while Glietz’s testimony focused on other houses of worship in the area.
Like previous hearings, held almost monthly since April, Monday’s focused on four zoning variances required in order for the Chai Center to be built on a lot that is just shy of the three acres required by local ordinances for a house of worship. The proposed structure will join two plots of land, at 1 and 7 Jefferson Rd., and will involve tearing down existing structures.
Opponents of the synagogue, among their other objections, insist it will be too large for the neighborhood and cause parking and traffic problems. Supporters of Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky, whose congregation currently meets at his home at 1 Jefferson Rd., say they need a place to accommodate their congregation, that few suitable lots exist in town, and that its impact on traffic and quality of life has been misrepresented by opponents.
Plans for the two-story building call for razing the current structures and building a synagogue with a main sanctuary, chapel, social hall, and classrooms.
Glietz said that other houses of worship in the area do not meet all the zoning requirements under discussion, having been granted variances or been built before existing laws were in place. Nevertheless, he said, they have little detrimental impact on the quality of life in the neighborhood.
The meetings may have grown tamer — few sport the buttons or wave the flyers seen at previous gatherings — and crowds have thinned from highs of 150. But interest remains keen among observers, who commented on testimony from their seats.
“It’s just not fair to the neighbors,” one man said to his neighbor. “The plot is still too small even if it is two lots.”
But, said a woman, “it’s true, you know; other houses of worship have received variances.”
The matter is expected to continue at least through March, with two more hearings scheduled.