BRICK TOWNSHIP, NJ – Brick Township Mayor John Ducey has announced he and the township of Brick have filed a lawsuit against Congregation Kehilos Yisroel, Inc. which has been accused of operating an illegal school on Van Zile Road.
“Today, at my instruction, Brick has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to force the unauthorized school on Van Zile Road to immediately cease and desist operations. In Brick, all property owners are required to obey our zoning regulations and we will enforce the law,” Mayor Ducey said tonight.
Brick Township claims Congregation Kehilos Yisroel is operating an illegal school and skirting the township’s zoning and land use ordinances. The Township is asking the court to force the non-approved private boys’ school to cease operating until the school obtains all proper land use approvals and construction permits.
The 4.11 acre site has been approved for use as a religious house of worship that includes a home for the rabbi, but the town says the building is now being used as a school and is not a permitted use for the plot. The site has been in use as a house of worship since 1976 and the township welcomes that use, the lawsuit claims.
Ducey said the application that was approved in 1976 did not request for the site to be used as a school. That would require the congregation to submit applications before the township prior to regular land use hearings and approval.
A 1976 report on record with the township only sought to use the property as a synagogue and that application was approved. A synagogue has operated on the site since the 1970s.
“The Report also significantly states that the plans did not identify any future use of the building other than a synagogue. The Report does not mention a principal or accessory school at all,” the township said in the suit. “This included Temple Beth Or’s traffic engineer, Robert Nash, PE who certainly would have discussed school buses or vans and general drop off and pick up procedures in the parking area of a school use.”
The property was transferred on March 21, 2021 to CKY, based out of Jackson Township home owned by Samuel Pum, township officials said. Pum filed a zoning permit to continue using the structure as a synagogue, which was approved, but never mentioned using the site as a school, the town contends.
The township gave CKY approval to rehabilitate the structure but noted that any change of use would require a new site plan approval.
In March, neighborhood residents began issuing complaints about increased traffic and activity at the location and showed evidence that the use of the property had been changed from a synagogue to a private boys’ school.
The township contacted Pum and inquired about the complaints to which Pum allegedly told township officials it was still being used just as a synagogue. The township’s attorney then spoke with CKY’s attorney and warned that a violation would be issued if the proprietor did not submit a proper site plan application to use the facility as a school.
During that time, the township conducted a construction inspection and the town claims to have found numerous interior alterations to the building in violation of the Uniform Construction Code of New Jersey. The school was issued citations for construction without a permit and change of use without a permit.
“The Defendant CKY has refused to comply with the requirements of the Brick zoning and land use ordinances and refuses to apply for proper approvals before the land use board with jurisdiction,” the town says in the lawsuit. “Defendant CKY is at a minimum required to obtain site plan approval pursuant to Section 354-2BB-81 of the Township Code. Brick has a right and an obligation to enforce its zoning and land use ordinances. The Defendant CKY is required to cease all operations because it has refused to apply for and obtain all required land use approvals from the municipal land use board with proper jurisdiction.”
The lawsuit in Brick is different from past lawsuits in Jackson Township and Toms River where those towns are claimed to have encroached on the landowner’s religious freedom. In this case, the township is claiming the landowner took an approved house of worship and turned it into an unapproved educational facility without obtaining the proper permits and inspections required by law.
The township cited the school for failure to secure these permits renders the conversion from the previously approved house of worship with an accessory residential home for a Rabbi to the current school uses not permitted.