Mahwah July 15, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 9 Chai Lifeline questioned on use of single family house by Frank J. McMahon Neighbors of a single family house on Ramapo Valley Road in Mahwah, which is being used by a Jewish not-forprofit organization to provide respites for grief stricken families, posed numerous questions about that use to the officials of the organization at a recent public meeting of the township’s zoning board. The house is located on a 4.4-acre property overlooking the Ramapo River. It is accessed by a private right-of-way that serves as the access for eight lots between Ramapo Valley Road and the river. In July 2007, the house and property were given to Chai Lifeline as a gift by the previous owners, Pamela and Craig Goldman. Chai Lifeline, Inc. is seeking zoning board approval to continue using the house as a place for families with children who have pediatric cancer or a chronic illness to spend two to three day stays during the week, and groups of mothers whose children have died, or groups of young widows to stay at the house on weekends. The neighbors voiced concerns about the capacity of the septic system and well on the site and the oil tank that heats the house. Rabbi Avroham Cohen, executive director of Chai Lifeline, and its attorney, Marc Leibman, agreed to provide that specific information at a future meeting. But they emphasized that the house is, and will be, used for no more than one family at a time and for up to 10 grieving widows or mothers for counseling. There is a caretaker who maintains the facility before and after the family’s stay at the house. Cohen advised that there are no plans to make any changes to the house and there is enough parking on the site for 20 cars. He pointed out that the previous owner often had parties for 10 or more family members and friends and there was never a problem. One neighbor, Adrienne Vas, voiced her concern about the use of one of the rooms in the house as a conference room and wondered what else is going on in the house. Cohen emphasized, however, that the house is being used as any regular family would use it. “Our intent is for a family to use the home in the same way that you or I would use it,” Cohen told Vas. “I’m sorry that you have imaginary ideas of what goes on there.” Vas also voiced concern about her privacy complaining that all the families coming to the Chai house go by her driveway. “You are creating another issue for me,” she told Cohen, “and that is (the loss of) my privacy.” In response to questions from William Smith, the attorney for adjacent property owner Mary Grob, Cohen advised that the use of the house is available to all the families served by Chai Lifeline from all over the country but 95 percent of them come from the New York metropolitan area. Cohen said, however, it is not open to the public or to members of the community unless they have been assigned a case manager. He confirmed that his organization is nonsectarian and its case workers do not discriminate as to the type of person helped by the group and is open to all denominations although its programs are culturally Jewish. Cohen explained that the use of the house during the week would be by a traditional family although he would not rule out that an extended member of the family might also stay there. Liebman confirmed that the use of the house by up to 10 people on weekends is part and parcel of the use of the house as a single family residence. Cohen said the families would usually arrive in three to four cars, although he acknowledged they could arrive in 10 vehicles. Melanie Kwestel, the group’s director of communications, explained that Chai’s clients are families who are devastated and need a place “in a truly beautiful setting” where nobody knows them in order to restore their relationships. She explained the emotional and financial impact on a family that has a child with pediatric cancer or a chronic illness and she advised that all of Chai’s services in Mahwah are provided at no charge to its clients. The use of the single family house for different families, however, was cited as a violation of the zoning code by the former zoning officer who determined that the use of the single family house for different families did not meet the requirements of the township’s zoning ordinance. According to Joseph Burgis, the township’s professional planner, the township’s ordinance defines a one-family dwelling as a building occupied exclusively by one family functioning as a single housekeeping unit whose relationship is of a permanent, stable, and domestic character. The Ramapo Reformed Church Vacation Bible School program, “Paul and the Underground Church,” will be held Aug. 3 through 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The program will include singing, Bible stories, crafts, games and snacks while exploring what it was like to be a part of the early Christian church in Rome. Children ages three through 12 years of age are invited to attend. Call the church at (201) 529-3075 to register or register online at Registration is free. All activities take place in the education building. Ramapo Reformed Church is located at 100 Island Road. 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