JACKSON – Jackson’s rural nature is changing, as development grows. While a Little League team’s fame called upon Jackson’s “home town” feel, there were other issues involving its growing pains.
Holbrook Team Is All Stars
The Holbrook All-Stars Little League made it to the Little League Baseball World Series South Williamsport, Pa., but were eliminated with a 2-2 record.
Prior to the series, the team won a slew of games and four championships. During the game, people from around the world tuned in to watch the local stars. The team, made up of 10, 11, and 12-year-olds, was given a heroes’ return upon their trip home.
The Dorm Ban And Eruvs
The Planning Board saw that a ban on dormitories was consistent with the township’s master plan and other land use laws. Soon after, the Township Council approved the ordinance that banned any dorms to be built or converted from a building with a previous use. The ordinances would also ban schools, workshops, warehouses, garages and storage yards in certain zones.
This soon led to a lawsuit against the town, claiming it targeted the Orthodox Jewish community. There were two plaintiffs. The first was Agudath Israel of America, a New York nonprofit founded to “unite a broad array of Orthodox Jews, and to serve and advocate the interests of Orthodox Jewry,” according to the suit. The other plaintiff, WR Property, LLC, owns approximately 4.93 acres on White Road, known as Block 21401, Lot 1. It is zoned residential. It was purchased for $300,000 specifically to be used as a school with a dormitory.
Later in the year, an amendment to the ordinance regulating streets and sidewalks added: “No person shall encumber or obstruct any street or public place with any article or thing whatsoever.” This was interpreted by some residents to ban eruvin in the township, although it only specified public areas. An eruv is something attached to an object like a utility pole. It could be string or tubing. Orthodox are prevented from working on Sabbat, the Saturday holy day. An interpretation of this would mean they can’t do certain activities like carry objects. But, if they are within the border created by an eruv, they are allowed.
Members of the governing body stated that the amendments were to address a lot of code enforcement issues, such as basketball hoops in the street, and that it was not changed to address one portion of the population. Agudath Israel of America and WR Property did not agree, and changed their lawsuit to include this as a further example of discrimination.
This resulted in a 90-day interim settlement that would allow eruvin while the parties involved discuss it further.
Loss Of Public Officials
Several public officials stepped down or were removed during the course of the year. Board of Education member Michael Hanlon resigned on Oct. 20, because he is moving out of the township.
Peter Kitay had been appointed to the zoning board in January and resigned in October, citing time constraints. Critics said that since he owned a construction company, he would have a conflict of interest. Anthony Marano, who had been appointed to the zoning board in August, was removed in October, after being arrested on assault and child pornography charges. When Marano was removed, an alternate, Alexander Sauickie, was moved into his spot. This left an opening for an alternate. Larry Schuster was going to be that alternate, but he resigned, citing family and time constraints as the primary reasons, although some residents were critical of material he had posted to his private social media accounts.
Eagle Ridge Approved
Residents, already feeling the walls of development coming in from all sides, were upset that the former Eagle Ridge Golf Course in Lakewood was going to be the site of about 1,800 homes, plus assorted other buildings. Residents from several nearby towns pointed to problems with the application, which included the impact on the environment, but especially the impact on traffic.
Ultimately, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection published an “intent to settle,” which reduced the headcount to a total of 1,034 units, plus five community center buildings, a clubhouse, a 23,387 square foot retail building and another 44,677 square-foot retail building.
Former Administrator Sentenced
Jose “Joey” Torres, 59, the former business administrator, had charges brought up against him through his role as the mayor of Paterson. He was sentenced to five years in prison for having public employees perform work on a private warehouse leased by his family members. The sentencing information did not mention any illegal activities taking place in Jackson.
Controversial Gas Pipeline
The Pinelands Commission approved the Southern Reliability Link in September. This is a gas line that would join up at a source in Chesterfield and head through various towns like Plumsted for 30 miles. It would end in Manchester. Environmentalists protested about how dangerous and unnecessary they said the pipeline would be. They also believed it would lead to more development in the area, and that the claim of it being for reliability was false.
Those in favor of the pipeline said it would provide another source of gas for the area (reliability), and would be necessary in case of a disaster or incident that damaged the existing pipeline.
Performing Arts Academy
A new Performing Arts Academy building for the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School was announced. Currently, the Performing Arts Academy is housed in Hangar 1 of the Joint Base-McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst. Its lease will be expiring soon. Additionally, with added security regulations, parents and staff have said that location is not as convenient as it once was.
Students will select from four majors: theater, vocal, dance and audio engineering. This would be in addition to its academic curriculum. The 60,000-square-foot building is expected to open in 2019. It will be located on the campus of Ocean County College. The goal is to create a continuity of education, so that OCC classes can be taught to high school students. The high school and the college students would be able to share facilities, although not at the same time.
The Ocean County Freeholders created a $27 million bond to pay for the school. They committed $8 million of its total cost. The state of New Jersey will be paying 40 percent of the project, or $10.6 million. The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation has pledged $8 million.