JACKSON – Reaching a positive future and meeting development goals set over a decade ago was the subject of an enthusiastic gathering of the township’s Chamber of Commerce on the evening of April 3.
The event was held at the elegant Metedeconk National Golf Club and featured several speakers including Council President Kenneth Bressi, Vice Council President Rob Nixon, who read notes prepared by Mayor Michael Reina who was unable to attend due to an emergency, as well as in his own role as chairman of the Economic Development Committee, Jackson Municipal Utilities Authority Executive Director David Harpell, Planning Board Chairman Joseph Ricardi and Zoning Board Chairman Steve Costanzo.
It was a map positioned on an easel behind the podium featuring future development projects, however, that spoke volumes as the centerpiece of the event. The dinner meeting of the chamber spotlighted current and potential commercial growth in the township.
One of those projects included a recently completed arrangement between the MUA and Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park involving a 16” water main hookup on Route 537. Harpell said that the six-mile water main project, which was first discussed in 2014, calls for the amusement park to cover half the debt service and includes a 20-30 year 1 percent interest loan.
Harpell said the project was delayed due to an issue of pine snakes believed to be within an area to be cleared for the project but that was discovered to be untrue. A new water treatment plant featuring a million gallon storage tank is set to be built as part of the project which is located on Perrinesville Road near Willy’s Lane.
“Eleven years ago we had three separate water systems. Jackson is a big town,” Harpell said. He said the $21 million project will start construction next month and that trees have already been cleared in preparation for the project which should be complete within 18 months.
Manhattan Street facility improvements was also listed on the map along with the future site of Well 18 on Bennetts Mills Road.
Nixon explained, from Reina’s notes, that the mayor had held a business summit at Great Adventure in June, 2011 that served as a kick off to boost business growth in the community which has had to primarily rely on residential taxation to support its municipal budgets.
The township’s goal is to see the community become “an overnight family vacation destination for sports and recreation,” said Nixon.
Nixon said the planning board was “working to make Jackson successful but has a commitment to keeping the character of the community.
“I have heard people say who would want to build that in Jackson there is not enough people but I see plenty of people and between the mayor’s leadership, the planning and zoning boards, things are more positive and we have the finest MUA in the state of New Jersey,” he said.
Nixon said he feels the township’s addition of hotels and restaurants would permit visitors to the park and future recreation facilities a weekend destination.
“We want those who come here to visit the park to stay here in Jackson and not stay outside of the township,” Bressi added during his turn in front of the podium.
Nixon spoke about his role as chairman of the township’s Economic Development Committee stating the agency was “a resource, but it is not our job to find business, but to help those doing business in town. Things weren’t as business friendly as we felt they should have been. That has changed now to be much better.”
“We are a board that interprets the law. There is so much opportunity here,” Ricardi said. He acknowledged a prior spirit of negativity concerning business growth in the past but echoed Nixon’s statement that “I think it has changed and I feel the Planning Board is a part of that. Your opinion counts. We’ve seen some new commercial coming in. It is a great place to do business. I can tell you confidence is high.”
Bressi said that in 2009 the Planning Board started working on a new township master plan aimed at building up commercial ratables to balance out the residential properties in town. He noted that with the state’s permit extension act gone, developers that had postponed plans “now have to go forward. That is why we are seeing new activity. Commercial and residential is coming together.”
Costanzo said that while he could not speak about specific applications he did confirm the review of a major sporting complex and one from Meridian Health. He said these and others were “major big applicants. We’ve been busy but happy busy. We do want to also keep the character of Jackson.”
12th District Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer was also an attendee of the event and provided the audience a warning about the pending state budget to be proposed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Dancer, of Plumsted, noted that taxpayers could see a potential 1.7 billion increase in new taxes included in the budget which would include income, sales and corporate tax increases. While he said efforts to modify this budget were expected in Trenton, that currently, “this is not friendly for business.”