Edison, NJ – The Edison Board of Education authorized its attorney to file a lawsuit against the Township’s Zoning Board at Wednesday night’s meeting.
“Tonight, I am introducing a resolution authorizing our legal counsel to initiate, if appropriate, a law suit against the Township, Edison Zoning Board, and other necessary parties,” said Board of Education President Jerry Shi.
“The law suit is based on the latest approval by the Edison Zoning Board of a multi-unit dwelling at 144 Harding Ave. It is the latest in a series of questionable approvals by the Edison Zoning Board, and very likely it will not be the last,” he said.
On March 26, the Edison Zoning Board approved an eight unit housing project for 144 Harding Avenue. Currently, the property is a single family home. The project approved by the Zoning Board will have eight three bed room apartments.
Harding Avenue will also be the site of other construction. Seven single family homes were approved by the Township at a site which previously housed the Woodside Swim and Tennis Club.
On nearby Tamagnini Court, six new single family homes were approved by the Township. On Oak Tree Road, an additional new three homes were also approved by the Township.
Mr. Shi, and Board of Education Member Richard Brescher, who seconded Mr. Shi’s resolution, argued that the Zoning Board’s approval of multi-unit dwellings is exacerbating the school district’s overcrowding problem.
“I respectfully submit that the actions of the Edison Zoning Board create a clear and present danger to the health and welfare of our children. Instead of working with the Board of Education to find solutions to the overcrowding crisis, the Municipal Administration and Zoning Board are engaging in conduct detrimental to our students and teachers,” said Mr. Shi.
In an impassioned speech, Mr. Brescher stated that the “overcrowding crisis” was a Township problem, not just a Board of Education problem.
“I dare the zoning board to look into the eyes of our students who don’t have room for music, who don’t have room to eat in a cafeteria, who are forced to walk outside the school to get to classes because the hallways are too congested – I dare you to look into their eyes and tell them that this is a school board issue and not a township issue,” said Mr. Brescher.
“I dare the zoning board to look into the eyes of our teachers who are forced to deal with class sizes that are up to 30 students, teachers who don’t have room to prepare lessons, teachers forced to teach in the hallways and makeshift classrooms - I dare you to look into their eyes and tell them that this is a school board issue and not a township issue,” he added.
The Board of Education is currently proposing the expansion of several district schools. Last month, the Board of Education issued a Long Range Facility Plan (Master Plan). The proposed plan will initially target the expansion of 6 schools, including Edison’s two high schools as well as recommendations for the other schools in the district. The Long Range Facility Plan also includes plans for a full day kindergarten program.
“But we cannot solve this problem just by building and expanding our schools. We must also address the fundamental cause for the overcrowding crisis. So long as the root cause for the overcrowding is not addressed, we will never be able to build and expand enough schools,” said Mr. Shi.
The resolution passed by the Board will allow the District to initiate a lawsuit against the town’s zoning board, and potentially lead to the reversal of approvals granted by the Zoning Board according to the school district’s attorney, Ramon Rivera.
“When the demographer came and spoke about the status of our schools and the overcrowding, I cringed because you can see as fast as he talked about the overload of students, more and more development is taking place. This is just another slap in the face. It’s eight units when we are also looking at multi units going all over town and I am hoping this is will be a great way of saying to the Township we need to hold back and do something,” said Board of Education member Elizabeth Conway.
The Board approved the resolution 8-0, with one board member abstaining due to his prior vote against the project in question while he served on the zoning board.