Hearing ends on synagogue proposal

Friday, November 21, 2008 6:14 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — After months of meetings and hours of testimony, the public hearing on Chabad of the Shoreline’s proposal to build a synagogue on Goose Lane ended Wednesday night.

Each side presented its final arguments as the applicants said they had met the criteria for a special permit — required to build a religious facility — and the project’s opponents urged the Planning and Zoning Commission to reject it.

Chabad of the Shoreline has proposed a 13,700-square-foot synagogue and day care center at 181 Goose Lane.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to start deliberations on the proposal at its next regular meeting Dec. 3, and could make a decision Dec. 17.

Under the town’s special permit rules, the applicant must show that the new use will be in harmony with the neighborhood and the town and will not impair adjacent home values; the building will have adequate fire access; the local roads can handle any additional traffic; the lot is large enough for the building and sanitary facilities; and the architectural design does not conflict with nearby properties.

Edward Cassella, an attorney hired by a group opposing the proposal, and Donna Criscenzo, who lives next door to the site, said Chabad does not meet the requirements.

Criscenzo called the facility “a commercial use without commercial rules applied” and that constructing it would damage her quality of life and lower the value of her property.

“The structure and its use, if allowed, will directly affect my ability to enjoy the calm and quiet of my home,” she said. “It will rob me and my family and my friends of privacy and the opportunity to freely move around my yard.”

Earlier this month, the applicants cut about 4,000 square feet from their architectural plans, reducing the size of the building from 17,700 square feet to 13,700 square feet.

But Criscenzo and others said that is still too large for a 1.3-acre lot.

Each side has presented evidence regarding projected traffic and the impact on home values if the synagogue were built. Chabad’s experts have said that Goose Lane could support any additional traffic while the opposition has criticized their methodology and said that the road is already overburdened.

“What the commission should be focusing on with respect to traffic, number one, your own understanding of that location,” Cassella said. “This is a heavily congested area already.”

But Marjorie Shanksy, an attorney for Chabad, called Cassella’s analysis of the situation “skewed” and said that Chabad’s experts used more accurate data in their opinions that the building would not negatively impact traffic or home values.

“We have demonstrated that the traffic numbers and the level of service are essentially unchanged through the most intensive use of the Chabad,” Shansky said, noting again that the group is expecting a maximum of 200 people for the most important Jewish holidays a few times a year.

In her closing statement, Shansky also repeated her assertion that the Chabad would serve as an ideal “transition” use between the industrial and commercial properties near Goose Lane’s intersection with Route 1 and the homes farther up the street. The proposed site sits near the Exit 59 interchange of Interstate 95.

“I said at the first meeting that this a perfect location and I maintain that that is still the case,” she said. “This stands as a magnificent buffer to the residential properties in the north.”

Criscenzo asked commission members to focus on the impact to residential neighbors. The proposed site, which is zoned for residential use, currently includes a three-family home.

“Our willingness to undergo public scrutiny and bashing and to spend this effort and time and money are factual evidence,” she said. “I implore you to please take the time to really consider the spirit of the five criteria, especially the one about quality of life.”

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