Eatontown, NJ - The three-year legal battle over the use of a house in a quiet residential neighborhood by a religious group appears to be largely over. Contention between the borough and Yeshiva of Ocean Inc. over how a two-story house on Whalepond Road owned by the nonprofit religious organization was being used came to the borough’s attention after neighbors complained about a flurry of construction activity inside the house. Also did neighbors complain that the house was being used as a religious school, with up to 20 people a day attending religious services held there. Fines were levied in Superior Court against the owners for building without permits, and the borough filed a suit, saying the daily religious activity inside the house, which lies in a residential zone, violated their zoning ordinance. The suit was decided and the borough prevailed, said Gene Anthony, borough attorney, and Yeshiva of Ocean was ordered to stop holding religious activities inside the house. “All the students have since moved out, and I believe the building is now vacant,” Anthony said, the house, along with several in the neighborhood (also owned by Yeshiva of Ocean), were put up for sale.” Now the ounty Construction Board of Appeals that still has to be decided gave the organization a boost when it determined the house was being used primarily as a single-family residence, not a religious school as the borough maintained. It ordered Yeshiva to reinforce the areas of the house where large numbers of people gathered. Anthony said the borough is appealing that ruling. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 15 before Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson, according to the judge’s office. But, Anthony said, the contention between the two groups is largely over. “In terms of preventing the use, the wrongful use of the building, I think it’s over,” Anthony said.
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