Denying a request by the Township of Millburn, a Superior Court judge ruled Jan. 8 in favor of the Chai Center of Short Hills and declined to reconsider his May 2013 ruling faulting the township for rejecting the Jewish center’s zoning application for a new building at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road.
Judge Sebastian Lombardi also ordered that the township pay $29,000 in attorney’s fees to the Chai Center.
It is the latest chapter in the ongoing zoning battle pitting the Chai Center against the Millburn Township Zoning Board of Adjustment and Save Millburn, an organization created to oppose the Chai Center’s plans for a 16,350-square-foot synagogue on a double lot on Jefferson Avenue.
Last May, Lombardi overturned the 2012 zoning board decision rejecting the center’s application for a variance, essentially on the basis of a 2000 federal law that places a purposefully high standard on governments’ ability to impose zoning restrictions on houses of worship.
“We are very grateful to our legal team for all their hard work and devotion to our case,” wrote Rivkie Bogomilsky in an e-mail. Her husband, Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky, leads the Chai Center.
A further hearing is scheduled for March 21. The case will ultimately return to the zoning board to reconsider the variance application based on Lombardi’s ruling.