Town nixes Hatikvah’s building plans

Town nixes Hatikvah’s building plans

The Hatikvah International Academy charter school is again locked in a legal battle with East Brunswick, this time over plans to convert a warehouse into a new school building.

On Jan. 14, the township council reversed a decision by the zoning board of adjustment that would have granted the school a variance to convert a 55,000-square-foot warehouse at 7 Lexington Ave.

The council said it based its decision on zoning issues — the area is zoned “light industrial” — but school founder Yair Nezaria said the school planned to file suit against the township, claiming it was “another example where politics trumps legal obligation and common sense.”

The state’s first Hebrew-language immersion charter school faced resistance even before it opened more than two years ago. Opponents have said the school is a drain on the local school system, while supporters insist it is a viable and cost-effective alternative for children of all backgrounds.

The school has been housed in rented space at the Trinity Presbyterian Church on Cranbury Road. Beginning with about 97 students in grades K-2, it has been adding grades and now has approximately 200 youngsters through grade four. It has outgrown that space, said Nezaria, and more than 150 student applications have been submitted for next year.

On July 5, the zoning board approved a use variance for converting the warehouse. However, East Brunswick residents Deborah Cornavaca and Cris Rampolla appealed the variance approval to the council, which overturned the ruling after taking testimony in December.

An e-mail to council president James Wendell and calls to township administrator James White by NJJN were not returned.

“As an East Brunswick resident and parent I am quite disappointed” with the town council’s latest legal decision, said Nezaria. “They have a legal duty that was apparently ignored in our case…. This is just another hurdle and I’m very confident our school will prevail in court. Ultimately this kind of resistance only makes us more resilient, more united, and even better problem-solvers. ”

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