June 17, 2024
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Teaneck’s Jan Meyer Marks Silver Anniversary on Zoning Board

It’s a part of the Township of Teaneck that, arguably, touches the lives of many residents directly or indirectly, yet still remains largely unfamiliar to much of the town. And for the past four years it’s been led by a member of the Jewish community who is deliberately understated about his work on the board.

The Teaneck Zoning Board of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial body that interprets New Jersey State laws and municipal land use laws, takes testimony, hears legal arguments and grants or denies requests for variances. The board, which has seven full members and four alternates, meets monthly for four hours and considers an average of eight to 10 cases each month.

Residents and business owners appear before the Zoning Board whenever they seek to make changes to a property in town that the township building office denies due to a conflict with land-use laws. Property owners then file an appeal to the Zoning Board and seek variances, based on special circumstances, community interests or other considerations.

Examples of situations that require variances include:

A multi-family building that seeks to have fewer parking spaces than is required for a building of their size;

A homeowner whose home expansion plan will lead to more lot coverage than the 40% specified in the laws;

A property owner who plans to build in such a way that the front yard set-back would not match the requirements for that zone of the town.

Serving as chair of the Zoning Board for the past four years, and recently reelected by the Board members to his fifth one-year term is Jan Meyer. He recently reached 25 years of service on the board.

Meyer is in many ways an ideal choice to serve as chair. He is the founder and senior counsel of The Law Offices of Jan Meyer & Associates, a 10-attorney law firm based in Teaneck (with an office in New York) that has broad experience in civil and commercial litigation and real estate law. Meyer is a member of the bar admitted to practice before courts in New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. He manages the operation of his firm, represents a roster of clients, and serves as a frequent speaker on topics in insurance, business litigation, injury and subrogation law.

Meyer is passionate about serving the community. He is an active member of TVAC, the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps; he previously served as a member of the Bogota Ambulance Squad as well. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Barnert Hospital in Paterson (now closed), is an active member of the Bergen County Bar Association, and is involved in many other organizations.

He is quick to turn down any notion that he plays any special role on the Zoning Board. “I’m the traffic director of the group,” he said, “and I have no more influence than anyone else on the board.” He praises all the members of the board for the time they invest in their work, noting that “they spend hours preparing before each meeting” and will often visit properties under discussion to get a better understanding of the issues.

He also speaks highly of all the township staff who assist the board and enable the board to carry out its work: “We couldn’t do all that we do without them. They are essential to us.”

Meyer expressed gratitude for the prior Zoning Board chairs, Anne Senter and Eugene Stamper, who served as excellent role models in how to be both mindful of the law and process, while also showing consideration for property owners.

He takes particular pride in the transparency in the work of the Zoning Board, which has increased over the past year and a half as all its meetings take place over Zoom. He stated that “Now, more members of the public can attend meetings, because it’s easier to do.” The Board’s use of Zoom also allows viewers to all see relevant documents more easily. Meyer points out that members of the public have the opportunity to ask questions directly to applicants for variances and their professionals at the meetings. He hopes that additional residents choose to view meetings, to better understand the work of the board.

The Zoning Board wants all residents and business owners with cases before the group to have a full understanding of how the group works. Towards that end, Meyer suggests that they view a meeting or two before the one at which they’re scheduled to appear, so they can observe the process and anticipate the type of concerns that are raised.

“Over his decades of service Jan has heard over 1,000 applications for variances for homes, houses of worship, schools and commercial establishments,” said Mark J. Schwartz, deputy mayor of the Township of Teaneck and co-publisher of The Jewish Link. “His legal knowledge combined with his land-use experience is shown in the many homes and neighborhoods that have been refreshed, renovated and had value added as a result of these applications. We live in a better place because of his dedication.”

Meyer stated: “We [members of the Zoning Board] do it because it’s good to give back to the town. You don’t get something tangible out of the work, not even a pat on the back. However, you do get the satisfaction of serving the community by helping the town’s zoning laws to be executed in a responsible and equitable way.”

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