JACKSON – Members of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment voted against permitting use variances that would have allowed for the building of an apartment complex featuring 192 residential units on West Veterans Highway on Route 528.
The proposal involved a 29-acre tract on West Veterans Highway which is located in a Neighborhood Commercial zone that includes a diner. The proposal was for 112 residential apartments in seven two-story buildings and 23,000 square feet of commercial space.
Applicants Dr. Ira Port and Alan Cohn submitted two applications which were examined during a public hearing last month for the property.
The proposal had been modified since its initial introduction. One revision included shifting the proposed commercial space closer to Route 528.
A second application involved a use variance for an 11-acre site on West Veterans Highway which is in a non-commercial zone which included a proposal to build 80 apartments in five two-story buildings and approximately 7,000 square feet of new commercial space.
Attorney Kenneth Pape represented the applicants and was joined by professionals Mike Intilly, Art Bernard, Jeffery Otteau, and Richard Tokarski who testified during the public hearing.
According to the minutes of the June 5 meeting, Pape stated this was the applicant’s third presentation for this application and explained that there were two separate applications because of the slight differences per lot.
The application process started in March with a presentation of the work Port and Cohn had done which included environmental studies.
Intilly took the Board through the development proposal, and identified that this site is adjacent to uses similar if not the same, such as a neighboring apartment unit built on septic system, a small restaurant built on small septic system and a small strip where Port and Cohn practice.
Testimony also included analysis of the graphics of Jackson, and the regional Monmouth area. The target of the one and two bedrooms was shared to suggest this type of housing was needed in this area of the township.
Bernard’s testimony included the use variance requirements, and also included increasing commercial development. During an April 17, 2019 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting members allowed the applicant to meet with them and professionals, and a few hours were spent reviewing the plans
Board member Joseph Sullivan said during the meeting that he had a concern with the application in that the Board is rezoning, and if the town wanted this to be mix use zone it would’ve been made into a mixed use zone.
“Perhaps this isn’t the right venue for this application. This is a great application willing to bring sewer to this area which is desperately needed but the Board shouldn’t have to overstep its authority by saying “ok you can have a mixed zone because you’re a good guy with a good application,” Sullivan said.
Board member Stephen Costanzo and Board Vice Chairman Carl Book also agreed that the application presentation was excellent but expressed that there was an opportunity for the project to go to council to rezone and the area is currently a bit of a mix.
Board member Peter Maher said “the numbers may be off, the space to the road is still concerning but it is a solid plan.”
Alternate board member Denis Weigert said he had concerns. One of them was that similar projects have already been approved in residential zones. “The area is rather busy with three schools including Goddard, and the strip mall, this would be adding a lot with the commercial and residential making a left on and off West Veterans.”
Alternate board member Gary Miller said that he moved to Jackson in 1983 and since that time there had been talk of a town center. “The old-style town center has retail and residential, and Jackson doesn’t have that, there is Farley’s and Shop Rite, but there aren’t any small businesses.”
Miller agreed with a comment made by Book about the need for more affordable units adding that sewers have kept that concept of a town center away from the area.
Both applications received a 4-3 vote in favor of approval. However, because a use variance was requested, five votes are needed for approval. Therefore, both plans were declined.
Miller, Book, Maher and Costanzo voted yes to both applications while Board Chairman Sheldon Hofstein, Sullivan, and Weigert voted no to each.