JACKSON – Land use issues continue to be a concern of residents who are seeing the township develop. The Township Council discussed no-knock ordinances, land use violations, and more at a recent meeting.
A resident asked if you are outside, and someone pulls up and asks to buy your house, does that violate the no-knock ordinance?
“They are coming on your property to speak to you about selling your house of course because what else would it be? Would that qualify for that?” the resident asked.
“Legally, I couldn’t answer that,” Council President Martin Flemming said.
Township Attorney Gregory McGuckin did answer it saying, “probably not. It was designed to prevent unwelcome people from knocking on your door.”
“They are uninvited and unwelcomed,” the resident added.
“If you are outside you can say, don’t come onto my property. That is the difference,” the attorney said.
The resident also inquired if public comment was allowed during court sessions on the county level where those who received violation notices plea for a reduced fine. “Can you go as a person to make public comment?”
“The Construction Board of Appeals are made public but there is no opportunity for comment,” McGuckin said.
A resident also questioned a violation issued to a Short Hills Boulevard home and the outcome of the court session held on December 16, 2021 in municipal court.
The council could not answer that question but McGuckin suggested he contact the court to find out what happened. “They may be able to tell you if the case is over or resolved.”
Also questioned was a possible disconnect between the town and the county concerning septic use of a home that could be used for purposes other than residential and would have as many as 30 occupants using the house on a daily basis but not actually living there. “The County won’t do anything because the town isn’t saying it is being used for anything other than a four-bedroom home. It never gets addressed,” the resident said.
He added, “it could be bad if a septic system is leeching into everybody else’s neighboring properties. That is my point. It is dangerous if you live close to it and it migrates downhill.”
Councilman Alex Sauickie asked McGuckin for clarification on that matter and whether the County would not respond to residents with concerns like that.
McGuckin said if the Ocean County Board of Health were called, they might respond but the resident said, “all it is, is a back-and-forth game because they won’t touch it if the town doesn’t say it is being used as anything other than a house and labeled as a residence. There is a big disconnect. Nothing ever gets done. This has been going on for at least a year on a certain property and it isn’t right or fair to the neighbors who have to live next to this.”
In related land use news, an ordinance will change the way builders will pay mandatory development fees.
These fees are collected because of the New Jersey Fair Housing Act. This was a state law that attempts to prevent a town from zoning poor people out. Because of it, the Counsel On Affordable Housing (COAH) sets a number of homes for each town that must be considered affordable.
“We are making a slight change to the existing ordinance that right now all COAH fees have to be paid up front. We are now allowing the builders/developers to make a choice of either paying half of it half way through or paying as they get the COs (certificates of occupancy),” Flemming said.
A resident asked if the developers would still be paying the fee.
“We’re still getting the money,” Flemming replied.
The Township Council is changing the way certain buildings are being inspected.
Flemming explained that the change “will compensate for buildings that aren’t much of a building but are big open areas. Air domes for sports projects and things like that. Areas where you aren’t really inspecting a lot of buildings but have a lot of area or a lot of volume.”
In other news, Council Vice President Andrew Kern noted that in the few weeks of the new year, the township lost two residents to drug overdoses. “I want to reiterate one more time to speak to your children about drugs. Talk to them openly. The more you speak to them openly the more they will feel they can speak to you, the easier it will be for them to explain what problems they have.”
“For anyone suffering from addiction there are a number of ways to get help. Please reach out to me or anyone up here or anyone that you can and try and get the help that you need,” Kern added.
Council President Martin Flemming noted that resident Dr. Sheldon Hofstein who frequently offers comments and recommendations during public comment periods of council sessions, had recently stated the need for further explanation of proposed ordinances at council meetings.
“I just want to say we have public comment at the end of every meeting. If there is ever a question, there is the time to bring it up. We run through a lot of ordinances and trying to explain every one of them during the time of the meeting could lengthen these meetings considerably,” Flemming said.
He added, “never be afraid to ask because we have the information and the professionals here that can make it easier to understand.”
Help With Energy Costs
Councilman Nino Borrelli noted heating assistance programs available for those in the township during the winter as part of his council comments.
“Our country has become less energy independent. Due to the (President Joe) Biden administration oil and gas prices are going through the roof as well as heating costs and gas at the pump. There are heating assistance programs available from the state of New Jersey for township residents who need it and qualify,” Borrelli said.
“You can Google heating assistance NJ and go to low-income energy assistance programs and that will take you to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs website for more information. They also help with cooling bills. The toll-free hotline is 1-800-510-3102,” the councilman added.
He said, “another contact for Jackson, Ocean County residents is Ocean Inc. They are open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the contact is Debra Lynn Keefer at 732-244-9041 at extension 103 and the e-mail is email@example.com.”
Another resident asked about the township’s ongoing solar power project and whether the school district had put solar power panels on the roofs of some of the 10 schools within the township.
“The Board of Education is not under our purview. They don’t even have to ask us for permission to do that. You’d have to go to a Board of Ed meeting and ask their people that,” Flemming recommended.
Township Business Administrator Terence Wall said the township’s solar panel program would “start generating revenue on February 1.”