The Jackson planning board reversed its previous denial and has voted 5 to 1 to approve the Yotzer Ohr application for a private girls' high school. This decision, a stark departure from the initial denial in June 2023, reflects a meticulous reconsideration by the board.
The applicant's proposal involved converting the basement of a single-family home on Maplehurst Avenue to create a 20-student school catering to the Orthodox Jewish community. Given that the proposed school and existing home were not permitted in the industrial zone, the pursuit of a use variance became crucial.
Attorney Donna Jennings underscored that the school met positive criteria, benefiting from the inherent approval of schools under NJ state law. The successful application of the Sica balancing test, coupled with agreed-upon conditions like a prohibition on buses and student driving, reinforced the case.
Back in June the applicant faced prolonged questioning, the board went beyond standard considerations, delving into the social structure and religious practices of the girls. Jennings criticized these inquiries as exceeding the board's jurisdiction, emphasizing a lack of understanding of Orthodox Jewish traditions.
At tonight zoning board meeting, Shira Parness, a fairly new member to the zoning board, highlighted the strong community needs for such a school and how, with the agreed-upon conditions, it would seamlessly integrate into the neighborhood.
The subsequent 5 to 1 vote in favor of the variance reflects a thoughtful acknowledgment of the community's needs and a willingness to adapt within the bounds of zoning regulations. This outcome demonstrates the significance of a responsive and understanding approach in zoning decisions, ensuring that community requirements align harmoniously with the established legal framework.