Sunday, February 21, 2016

Faulty Notice Causes Delay for Church Hearing

Congregants filled City Hall Library Thursday for a Planning Board hearing on a church site, but issues with a legal notice cut it short.

The church, Ministerio Internacional Puerta Del Cielo, is seeking use of a building on Roosevelt Avenue. The hearing notice had only a partial address for the site and attorney Michele Donato told the board, "You could hear it at your own risk."

Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey said a list of waivers could be dealt with Thursday, but the rest of the application will have to be heard in March after an amended notice is published.

According to documents on file in the Planning Division, the church has about 70 members. It appeared that most of them were on hand Thursday, straining the 50-person capacity of the room. Attorney David Pressler no sooner introduced his witnesses (architect Robert Hernandez, planner Andrew K. Wu, church member William Ramos) than board member Gordon Fuller questioned the address in the notice, 407-409 Roosevelt Avenue.

Donato said she had reviewed the notice but not the address, which was listed in the application as 401-409 Roosevelt Avenue.

"You have to have the right street address," Donato said, noting it is one of the mandates of the Municipal Land Use Law..

A discussion ensued, in which Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said the address 401-409 Roosevelt, as per tax records, was correct. The notice apparently omitted 401, 403 and 405 Roosevelt Avenue. The property, Block 606, lot 50, also fronts on the 300 block of East Fourth Street.

Donato said the board could proceed at its own risk, but the outcome could be invalidated if challenged in the future.

Applicants are required to give notice to all property owners within 200 feet, and in answer to board member Siddeeq El-Amin, Donato said she believed that notice was properly given.

As per Chairman Ron Scott Bey, the board went over a long list of waivers sought by the church, but put off the actual hearing and testimony until March. Pressler said he thought he could get the amended notice published by Monday, in which case the board could hear the application at its March 3 meeting. Otherwise, the next possible hearing date would be March 17.

The site includes the former Stan's Auto Parts and a gravel parking lot. According to paperwork in the Planning Division, the board would require numerous improvements, including new curbs and repair of the parking lot. The site's owners are listed as the Silver Family LLC of Wickatunk, New Jersey.

One item on the waiver list brought a sharp reaction from Scott Bey. Pressler said the church planned to have a congregant remove any trash or recyclables from the site, but Scott Bey said individuals cannot remove refuse and the church must have a hauler.



  1. Will these properties be taxable?

    1. Churches must apply for exemption. If a church rents as some do downtown, the property owner pays taxes.

  2. What is the legal requirement to be a "Church". Can I gather up some neighbors of similar persuasion and be a Church?

  3. Many Plainfield churches began as groups of like-minded individuals. For legalities, look up Title 16 in the New Jersey Statutes.