Mahwah November 11, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 7 Planner: Proposed Chai retreat is not transient use by Frank J. McMahon The professional planner for Chai Lifeline, a non-profit that is seeking Mahwah Zoning Board permission to allow grief stricken families to stay for short periods in a single family home it owns, claims the proposal is not a transient use. The house is located in a residential zone on Ramapo Valley Road and is accessed by a single private roadway that serves seven lots. Matthew Jakubowski recently told the zoning board the proposal fits the definition of a single family use. He also testified that when the word transient was used in the township’s zoning ordinance to describe a prohibited use in a residential zone, it was intended to prohibit transitional housing such as boarding houses, fraternities, sororities, clubs, and associations from living in single family homes. According to Jakubowski, the word transient was misused by the writers of the ordinance. He suggested they intended to use transitional, a word commonly used in an affordable housing context to refer to an unrelated group of people such as in group homes, sororities, clubs, or homeless people who are housed for short periods of time. He said he did not believe the creators of the zoning ordinance intended it to apply to related people staying in a single family residence for a limited time period. William Smith, an attorney representing a neighbor of the Chai Lifeline house, pursued Jakubowski on the use of the word transient in the zoning ordinance, asking what affordable housing has to do with this Mahwah property. Jakubowski responded that the word transient is not found in state statutes, but the word transitional is commonly used in relation to affordable housing. He argued that transitional should have been used in the ordinance because that refers to group homes of unrelated individuals. He claimed the occupants of the Chai Lifeline house meet the definition of family in that they are a single housekeeping unit whose relationship is of a permanent, stable, and domestic character and they, therefore, should not be excluded from using this single family house. Asked by Smith if he is aware that under the Mahwah zoning code transient uses are not permitted and they are excluded in the code’s definition of family, Jakubowski acknowledged that transient uses are excluded. But the planner maintained that the word transient as used in the zoning ordinance creates confusion because the ordinance is not referring to a period of time, but to a type of housing. Smith also questioned Jakubowski about his contention that the proposed use by Chai Lifeline fits the definition of a single family use. “So when the ordinance says this zone is limited to residential uses, you are saying the proposed use fits the definition of a residence?” Smith asked. Jakubowski replied, “I don’t have a definition of the word residence before me, but based on the nature of the use, I don’t see it as anything other than a single family dwelling.” “Does the use here fit into the usual definition of residential?” Smith asked. Jakubowski answered, “Yes.” Then Smith asked if a motel also fits that definition. Jakubowski said, in his professional opinion, that would be different because a motel is a commercial use because it posts signs, has parking for multiple vehicles, restaurants, holds banquets and weddings, advertises, and charges for its use. Mahwah Township Planner Joseph Burgis also questioned Jakubowski about his contention that the word transitional should have been used in the zoning ordinance. He pointed out that the dictionary defines a transient as one who stays only for a short period of time. “So given that, how does one conclude that this is not transient housing?” he asked. Jakubowski reiterated that transitional refers to group homes and unrelated people. He emphasized that the ordinance refers to housing types and not the idea of living in a place for a certain period of time. “My contention is it doesn’t make sense that it would refer to a non-permanent stay in a place instead of referring to group homes, fraternities, sororities, and the like,” the planner said. 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