UPDATE: The Planning Board approved the ordinance by a 4-1 vote. It will now head back to the Township Committee for a second reading.
The Board also narrowed the ordinance to prohibit banquet halls in residential zones.
The Lakewood Township Planning Board is scheduled to vote at their Tuesday meeting on an ordinance which would legalize catering facilities and banquet halls for all schools, according to tonight’s schedule.
The Planning Board was originally supposed to vote on the ordinance at their last meeting, but postponed it to tonight after being presented with expert testimony that the proposed ordinance is not consistent with the master plan.
According to the text of ordinance 2022-046, which was introduced last month at the Township Committee hearing, “where schools are permitted uses, catering facilities and banquet halls shall be allowed as accessory uses in the schools buildings.”
Under current law, the township is silent when it comes to most schools regarding them having a catering or banquet hall on its premises, as opposed to Shuls and hotels, which are allowed to have them.
Although many schools in town do indeed have a banquet hall in their building, that is usually because they were later allowed as an “accessory use for the school,” a complex term which can be legally difficult to define precisely.
According to this new proposed ordinance, which will undergo its first reading at tonight’s meeting, if the area used for the banquet hall is under 800 square feet, then no new parking spaces will need to be added.
But if the area used is between 800 and 1,999 square feet, only 0.75 parking spaces will be required for every 100 square feet of space being utilized for the hall.
And if the hall is 2,000 square feet or greater, then 1 parking space for every 100 square feet will be required.
It is not clear exactly how the 0.75/1 parking spot ratio has been determined.
It is also not clear if schools will even be required to provide additional parking spot on top of what they already have.
A careful reading of the proposed ordinance seems to indicate that a school’s existing spots would work towards the total number of spots needed for the banquet hall.
If they are short, then new parking spaces would be required to be provided.
It should be noted that these new parking requirements, if adopted, will only be for future halls.
According to the ordinance, the Planning Board recommendation “shall identify any provisions within the Proposed Amendment to the Plan that are inconsistent with the Township’s Master Plan, the recommendations concerning those inconsistencies and any other matters the Planning Board deems appropriate.”
If the Planning Board recommendation is not transmitted to the Committee within 35 days, the Committee shall be relieved of the requirement to obtain a Planning Board Report for the Proposed Amendment to the Plan in accordance with N.J.S.A. and may bring up the ordinance for a second reading.
The Planning Board has not issued a recommendation and have stated that they are waiting for a report from the engineer, which is not so clear when it will be forthcoming.
The Planning Board meets tonight at 6pm.