JACKSON – The issue of township code enforcement was once again the subject of public comment during the latest Township Council meeting where reports were heard from the chief of police and code/zoning enforcement officials.
During a prior meeting, resident Mordy Burnstein voiced his disagreement regarding comments made by resident Eleanor Hannum about police response to zoning matters and traffic issues. He said that police in his development in the Brookside Parkway area were responsive to a variety of issues and he felt the statements made were inaccurate.
Hannum responded to his statements at the most recent Jackson Council meeting saying they “were geared toward defamation of residents who take the time to petition their government and actively seek resolutions for situations that concern them.”
She said Burnstein’s remarks were “an attempt to gain favor by slandering another resident, I saw malintent and the attempt to bully me into silence. To make broad accusations that I don’t respect our police force, clearly this individual knows nothing about me, not the fact that I am married to an officer of the law, and have family members who are detectives, police, secret service and serve in other government capacities.”
Hannum heads an organization formed in November 2019 called CUPON (Citizens United to Protect our Neighborhoods). She said the group’s purpose in forming came when residents began seeing “developers carving up the township and concern for the landscape, traffic, resources, environment, sensitive lands and potential changes to our Master Plan.”
“Many residents asked our group to look into situations in their neighborhoods that changed the use of a residential home, in violation of NJ Administrative Code 5:23-2.6 which makes “It (shall be) unlawful to change the use of any structure or portion thereof without the prior application for and issuance of a certificate of occupancy.”
“From the inception of our incorporation, our group has been the target of many nefarious allegations with absolutely no substantiated proof, nor any legal arm asking to meet with any of my members to make a statement or to answer the allegations of “other’s” opinions. All of these allegations are lies in the attempt to again, silence our voices,” Hannum added.
“Residents of Jackson have provided countless evidence on violations of NJ Administrative Code 5:23-2.6, and real-estate targeting, steering and harassment in their own home, only for our County, State and Federal governments to discriminate against American citizens who just want to be left alone to feel comfortable in their own home without constant badgering or harassment to push them out,” she added.
Hannum said “this is an example of exactly what has been done to every resident in this township, the attempt to bully citizens into silence so all you hear is one voice and the perception that, that voice must be truth.”
Resident Sheldon Hofstein spoke during the meeting and said “right now in town there are two non-resident home owners who are ignoring the town’s zoning ordinances and building codes and are converting residential homes in residential zones to non-residential buildings illegally. The issuance of summonses by code enforcement being asked to stop construction by police and taking them to court has not stopped their illegal activities.”
“By not stopping this illegal major construction the result will be buildings that have major changes without permits, without inspections, without certificates of occupancy and without oversight. The result of this non-compliance is a danger to local residents and a danger to everyone using the structure and even a bigger danger to our first responders, especially the firefighters,” Hofstein said.
Hofstein noted there are procedures in place to change the use of a property and added “if there is no respect for the laws by residents and non-residents and our elected officials are not enforcing them, why should anyone follow the laws they decide they don’t like?”
He noted personal cases over the years where he needed an electrical permit and a permit for plumbing work as well as for an air conditioner/heating system replacement. “That all fell under the same process. Everything was inspected and it was for our safety. Why hasn’t this construction going on in these buildings been stopped?”
Hofstein asked why no cease-and-desist issue been issued. “Hopefully people involved don’t feel threatened or bullied that they are not considering it. How do you stop people from breaking the law and thumbing their noses at you? Why can’t you stop them, period? I got stopped, my neighbors got stopped if they didn’t have a permit. Is the judge afraid? I see they keep getting cases dismissed.”
Business Administrator Terence Wall responded to Hofstein’s questions and to Hannum’s prior comments that he wanted to collect information from the various departments to provide an update. “I want to defend the departments who work on behalf of the taxpayers but fair questions deserve fair answers.”
Police Chief Matthew Kunz spoke about traffic concerns brought up a few weeks ago which involved three areas of concern: Brookwood I and Brookwood IV, and Brookwood Parkway.
“I went into our history from January 2020 to the present. I believe the allegation that I believe might be off was that the police aren’t really doing anything in that area. I came up with 18 pages of police activity on Brookwood Parkway. We did a number of traffic and enforcement details and we conducted 133 motor vehicle stops. That equates to a fair amount of police presence,” the chief added.
He said that represents what is occurring on the streets in question. “Officers are doing security checks which means they are just checking the area; motor vehicle stops, traffic details and investigation for suspicious vehicles.”
Andrew Cheney, who heads the township’s Code Enforcement office, said that if they find a violation they send a summons to the court and notify the building department. “They have come out and put out several stop orders on the houses. We come out the next day and they tear stop orders off the house. The building department has summonsed people.
“Right now, one of the handicaps we have is the courts are being run through Zoom and the courts have no recourse to put out notices to people to appear for the court summonses. We actually have only one day for court to have zoning and code enforcement on the court calendar (per month). Out of a hundred cases we would only get 40 to respond if we were lucky. It is an ongoing cat and mouse game. We get the same phone calls over and over by residents,” Cheney added.
Zoning Officer Jeff Purpuro said Hannum’s inquiry concerning any violations of code at 16 Short Hills was “a property in town that I actually visited which is the one where people were alleged, they advertised for short term rentals. I visited the site. It is being used as a single-family dwelling. There are no violations on that one.”
“As to 71 East Connecticut Concourse there have been violations, summons, we are seeking a cease and desist. I was at that site two weeks ago with the construction official. He posted a stop work order. We came back an hour later and the stop work order sign was removed,” Purpuro said.
“It is a difficult situation to deal with. We had them in court. It has been postponed; it has been adjourned. It becomes very frustrating. I’ve done enough work on that particular house where I’ve been inside the house. I’ve made the claim that there is no one living there. We issued the summonses and they continue to be adjourned for lack of discovery or the defendant side, there are excuses that continually (made) to adjourn that summons,” Purpuro added.