1515 Logan Road in Ocean Township (25 minutes from Lakewood), which formerly housed a school, was going to be the future home of Lakewood’s Yeshiva Gedola
In 2014, the Yeshiva filed an application to transform the school building into a school (Yeshiva) with boarding. Their application, though, was denied by the township.
The Yeshiva filed a discrimination lawsuit against the township (under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, or RLUIPA, which protects religious organizations from discrimination in land use matters) and in 2016 won the lawsuit. A federal judge granted the yeshiva the right to open the boarding school – despite its application being rejected by the township zoning board.
The owner of this property, Zebra Holdings LLC of Lakewood, sold the property to the Yeshiva, and the Yeshiva was slated to relocate there.
The property owner and Yeshiva failed to close on their purchase agreement within the deal’s specified time frame, allowing the township – or other buyers – to step in with its own offer to buy the property.
After seeing thousands of his constitutions protesting the Yeshiva application at the township meetings, Mayor Chris Siciliano came up with the idea for the township to buy the property, to prevent the Yeshiva from moving there.
The owner agreed to sell the property for $2,000,000. [Zebra Holdings originally purchased the property from Deal Yeshiva in January 2013, for $1,275,000.]
This past Thursday night, the township council voted 5-0 to authorize Mayor Chris Siciliano to close the deal and buy the property for $2 million, thus keeping it out of the hands of the Yeshiva.
“This wasn’t about religion,” said Mayor Chris Siciliano, adding that Ocean itself has a large Jewish community and more synagogues than churches. “It was about preventing the overuse of a property in a residential neighborhood.”
Mayor Siciliano said it will cost the average Ocean taxpayer about $30 a year to repay the bonds over a decade starting in 2020, unless the township sells the property first and uses the proceeds to pay down the debt.
[The township’s options for the property, Mayor Siciliano said, include leasing the existing 1958 school building on the site to the local public school district for $1 a year; selling the property for development into single-family homes, consistent with the site’s zoning; or creating a park that would be entirely handicap accessible, adjacent to an existing park that features conventional ball fields and tennis courts.
Mayor Siciliano said he intends to arrive at a permanent re-use for the property within two years.]