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Central Jersey College Prep Charter School Wins Approval For New Home

Zoning Board chairman Robert Thomas said he thought the proposed gym was too small.


Central Jersey College Prep Charter School received approval to move into a Mettlers Road building, but it had to temporarily give up a new gym to do so.

The charter school received Zoning Board of Adjustment approval for the site at 101 Mettlers Road at the Jan. 5 meeting, This was the second consecutive meeting during which the board entertained the application.

The school plans to take up two, two-storey wings of the facility, and had also planned to build a 9,800-square-foot addition to house a gymnasium and locker rooms. About half of the building would remain empty until another tenant leases it.

Although the approval was unanimous, it didn’t come without some fireworks, though, both from the dais and the audience.

CJCPCS currently shares space in a Schoolhouse Road building with the Chinese Community Center. To move into the Mettlers Road space, the school will have to break its lease.

That prompted the Chinese Community Center to send an attorney, Jack Wong, to ask the board to not approve the application. To do so, he said, would cause the community center to “suffer damages.”

Wong was told that the board cannot consider the implications of the lease in its deliberations on the application.

“Whatever happens is between you two,” board chairman Robert Thomas told him.

Wong sat down when he was told that his comments were out of order.

Later in the meeting, the community center’s assistant director, Cynthia Hwang, berated the board for not allowing her attorney to continue.

“My attorney has the right to finish what he was trying to say without being cut off, without being told to sit down,” she said. “Let him finish.”

“We’re not concerned with your getting into a lawsuit with the charter school,” Thomas told her. “We’re concerned with the charter school meeting the requirements for an approval.”

The board at the December meeting raised concerns about the new gym addition because of its proximity to a natural gas line, as well as doubts that the proposed size would be large enough to hold students and parents for special events.

Thomas re-introduced the latter point at the Jan. 5 meeting.

Thomas said he didn’t understand why, with half the building remaining empty, the school couldn’t convert some of that interior space into a gym, rather than constructing a new building so close to the pipe line.

“You couldn’t put half the kids in the gym for an assembly,” he said. “It’s not adequate. It doesn’t make sense that you have all this empty space, and yet you’re going to add on, next to a pipeline, an inadequate building.”

“They felt it was an appropriate location and that the size of that gym would meet its needs,” Peter Lanfrit, the school’s attorney, said. “If (they’re wr0ng) they can add on.”

“If that’s the main concern of the board, we can remove the gym from the application and look at putting it somewhere else on the site and doing something else,” he said.

“I think this is a great site for a school,” Thomas said. “What bothers me is, your client can say we’ll do this, if it doesn’t work, we’ll do it over again. That’s our tax money and we don’t have any say over it other than what’s coming here to this board.”

“My gut feeling is, you have the space, you’re going to have the students, why not do it the right way the first time?” Thomas said.

“I want this to be the best so it succeeds,” he said. “This is not what should be done.”

“If they’re planning on hosting events there and having this as a viable, usable facility for 1,200 kids, that facility is a failure from the beginning, and we’re paying for it,” he said.

Later, Lanfrit told the board that the school would be willing to remove the gym from the application and revisit the issue later.

“We’ll be back with the gym somewhere on the site,” he said.

Prior to the vote, board vice chairperson Laura Graumann said the plan “looks like a reasonable site pan, particularly with the gym having been removed.”

“This building has been empty for a long time,” said board member Cheryl Bergailo. “It’s underutilized.

 

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