Teaneck shul zoning dispute heads for hearing

Teaneck shul zoning dispute heads for hearing

A two-year-long dispute between a shul and its neighbors will culminate in a hearing before the Teaneck Zoning Board on Dec. 16, as Cong. Etz Chaim and its rabbi, Daniel Feldman, fight for the right to continue meeting in a home on Queen Anne Road.

The meeting, which will take place at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, will address a cease-and-desist order the township’s construction official and zoning officer, Steven M. Gluck, handed to the shul last year based on claims that the synagogue has been operating in a house zoned only for residential use.

Feldman lives in the home at 554 Queen Anne Road with his wife, Leah, and their two children. The family rents from 554 Queen Anne Road Inc., which bought the house in October 2007. The corporation hired Feldman as rabbi that fall.

Etz Chaim holds weekly Shabbat services in the house.

On July 22, 2008, Griggs Avenue residents Rif Campeas and Janet Abbot filed a petition on behalf of 78 neighbors to the township to “implement enforcement procedures requiring the issuance of permit for a change of use with respect to the family room.”

According to the petition, which includes photos of people entering the house, presumably to pray, the family room began to be used for religious services on July 18, 2008, and a “change of use” had occurred. Such a change requires a permit from the township.

An Aug. 8, 2008, Gluck sent Feldman a letter that called for a “cease and desist from using the premises as a house of worship/place of public assembly within 20 days from the date of this decision.”

Robert Erlich, a spokesman for the synagogue, declined comment ahead of the hearing. He had previously told The Jewish Standard that Etz Chaim called itself “a private prayer group,” while Teaneck argues that it is a house of worship.

Etz Chaim had received a stay allowing it to continue functioning as a shul as it filed an appeal.

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