Ambulance Parking, Church Sign and Parking Lot Applications Approved By Zoning Board

Angelo Valetutto, left, a planner for RWJ Barnabas, testifies before the Zoning Board of Adjustment Aug. 3.

Application approvals for two houses of worship were among the actions taken Aug. 3 by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The board approved an application submitted by the Masjid-e-Ali mosque on Cedar Grove Lane to allow temporary parking for special events in an area behind the mosque and approved a free-standing sign for the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church on Elizabeth Avenue.

The board also approved an application by RWJ Barnabas Health to park six medical emergency vehicles at 107 Cedar Grove Lane.

Alex Kharazi, vice president of the mosque, told the board that the overflow parking area would only be used for one day in early September, and maybe six days at the end of September or beginning of October for religious observances.

“We’re expecting a higher number of people” at those times, he said.

Kharazi said the mosque, probably next month, will look for approval to build a school addition to the mosque.

“I really haven’t seen any issues or any problems associated with its functioning,” board chairman Robert Thomas said of the mosque. “I think it deserves to be complimented on being ahead of the game a little bit and anticipating issues and taking care of them before they become a problem. I think things will work out exactly the way they’re being described in the testimony, and you know I haven’t said that about a lot of institutions like this.”

Officials from the Syro-Malabar church told the board that they had been using a temporary sign since the church opened in 2014, and now wanted a proper sign.

The proposed sign is 32 square feet in size, where 24 square feet is permitted, so a variance was needed.

Church attorney Peter Lanfrit noted that the proposed sign was larger than allowed only because of its base.

The sign will be lit on either side with spotlights, Michael Ford, the church’s engineer, told the board.

RWJ Barnabas wanted to park the six emergency response vehicles at the Cedar Grove Lane site, near the Aloha Mind Math location.

“My understanding is there would be two overnight to provide the type of service were intending to provide, so we can be responsive to the needs of this portion of the municipality,” Angelo Valetutto, the developer’s planner, told the board.

He said no vehicle repairs would be done at the site, and the vehicles would not be permitted to idle.

Also, Valetutto said, any emergency lights or sirens would not be turned on until the vehicles were on Cedar Grove Lane.

That drew a response from board member Robert Shepherd, who wondered if the noise and lights would bother area residents and should be used at all on that part of Cedar Grove Lane.

“It seems to me the lights and sirens, if they’re going to be in an area where there are residents, that would be a negative thing,” he said.

Thomas and board member Joel Reiss said not using the sirens could affect the emergency responders’ response time.

“I think your heart is in the right place,” Thomas told Shepherd. “I’m not really too concerned because there’s any number of police cars and ambulances now riding by. If it happens it happens.  Probably isn’t practical because they’re not the only ambulances using the road.”

The ambulances would serve RWJ Barnabas hospitals in New Brunswick and Somerville, depending on the patient’s need, Valetutto said.


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