New Jersey – Lakewood Zoning Board Members Opt Out Of Meetings Because Of Recording Devices

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    Lakewood, NJ – Several members of the Lakewood Zoning Board of Adjustment are apparently uncomfortable living in the digital age.

    According to the Asbury Park Press (http://on.app.com/1TPc0Db), board members Avraham Naftali and Judah Ribiat have failed to attend the last three meetings ever since an unidentified individual called “First Amendment Activist” on YouTube began recording the proceedings in March. Naftali left the March meeting early, saying, “I’ve been here a little over 12 years, I believe, and I’m not comfortable. I’m not comfortable with the videos, so I’m going to step out tonight.” He didn’t attend the April or May meetings either. Neither Naftali nor Ribiat would comment for the article.

    Prior to the opening of the March meeting, Board Chairman Abe Halberstam said, “Before we begin tonight’s meeting, I’d just like to warn my fellow board members that we’re being videotaped by a private citizen tonight, so be careful what you say and what you’re going to be saying on the record.” Following that announcement, Naftali left the meeting, with Moshe Ingber and Hal Halvorsen leaving before the final application for Belz Center of Lakewood was voted on. The walkout left just three members left to vote, two fewer than the required number of five votes to approve variances.

    Some applicants are also unhappy about the presence of the camera. One engineer said two of his clients have decided to postpone bringing their application before the board “because of the camera.” Cameras and other recording devices are permitted under New Jersey’s open public meeting law.”He can film any public meeting he wants, as longs as it’s a public meeting,” said Thomas Henshaw, the township’s manager.

    But residents say the absences are impacting the board’s progress, forcing several applicants seeking land use variances to constantly delay their hearings. A minimum of five votes in favor are required for variance approvals.

    A lawyer for one of the applicants, Adam Pfeffer, said, “This is the third time that we’re carrying this due to the fact that there are just five members.” Acting chairman for the May meeting Obed Gonzalez responded, “And I do apologize. We’ve had holidays and a lot of situations come up so it’s been very difficult.” Besides putting off prospective applicants, the no-show members also affect local residents who wish to speak in support or opposition of a proposal.
    The board is scheduled to meet again in the municipal building on June 20 at 7 p.m.

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    10 COMMENTS

    1. Nothing like transparency to force developers to pay full price, and those seeking variances to make full disclosure of their intent. I don’t hear a problem. Do you?

    2. With the established propensity for these “First Amendment” bloggers to cut and paste recorded comments out of context to further their personal agendas and vendettas, the discomfort of the absent zoning board members is perfectly understandable.

    3. Great idea!
      Follow the law!
      Stop giving permits to all the developers unless they follow the law: want to build the house – you should have 75 by 150 ft piece of land, or at least 50 by 150 like most of the old houses have.
      Stop continuing messing up our town!
      Because of you – we are forced to buy or rent the house with 10 ft backyards!
      Because of you we can’t drive on our streets safely without traffic, because you don’t care what to approve, as long the guy is a gvir with a big pocket, that did help you already or will (you hope) will help you in the future!
      Because of you they hike the prices for the land (since instead of 5 legally built houses, you allow gvir developer shtup in 14 duplexes with no backyards, so he can make an extra $1,000,000), and hike the prices of the house too!
      Get all this frum guys out of all the boards, including this one!
      Let the goim run their town, and let us just simply follow the law (like my Rov said)!

    4. Get these people out and elect real people not afraid to do what is correct-enough is enough. If you would not want a building for example in your backyard don’t allow it in someone elses.

    5. Tells us all we need to know, doesn’t it. The minute anyone outside their cozy circle might actually see and hear what goes into decision, suddenly developers and “officials” get cold feet.

      Man up. If you’re all honest and doing the right thing, you wouldn’t be afraid to have it be broadcast the world over.

      Kudos to the person who started recording these. Will cause a shakeup for a bit, but then you’ll start seeing a change in the behavior of those being recorded, and perhaps a different sort of person running for those positions.

      Well done!

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