JACKSON – Further testimony will be heard during a Township Planning Board meeting because parts of the Jackson Parke South application need reviewing.
During the last Planning Board meeting where the application was discussed there was debate over the application’s driveways/two car garage – one of the subjects being reviewed.
A meeting that ran for close to four hours featured debate among Planning Board members, the applicant’s attorney Jason Tuvel, Board Attorney Sean Gertner and professionals who testified for the applicant.
The applicant is EL at Jackson which is owned by Jack Morris. They are seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval for its proposal which includes building a 549-unit single-family and multi-family development in the Cassville section of the township.
The proposal calls for 100 of the 144 apartments to be designated as affordable housing units which are defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to either individuals or families whose incomes meet a specific criterion.
Driveway Space Debated
Board members questioned the driveway and garage size included in the application pertaining to two car garages.
The applicant’s traffic engineer Nick Verderese spoke about the width of the garages and driveways of the town home units. Starting with the garages he said, “the majority of the width is 18 feet except for the first five feet as you enter it is 17 feet wide but it opens up to 18 feet wide. The depth is 19 foot, 7 inches.”
He added that in his opinion the garage could adequately accommodate two vehicles. The applicant was asked by the Planning Board previously if they knew of any code standards regarding garage widths. In researching that issue Verderese said, “I researched seven different standards … none of them had any reference to a minimum size garage or garage door opening.”
As to driveways Verderese said, “the driveway width is proposed at 15 feet to match the garage door openings.” He said in his professional opinion this width could accommodate two vehicles.
He testified the average size of the width of a vehicle is “right around six-foot width. SUV and trucks have six and a half feet width. If you are looking to take credit for two cars in the driveway and doing your calculations for parking you would be required to have a 20-foot width, you get credit for 2.5 spaces. In our instance we are not taking credit for that we were only taking credit for three spaces. We meet the standards of all the widths. We still have more than the required number of parking spaces.”
Councilman Martin Flemming asked the applicant’s engineer about a “boulevard island that runs at the entrance of your single-family houses with parking on the street. That makes it tight for emergency vehicles. In addition to that the roundabout at the end, even though you are showing decent circulation when you get too many cars into that it is not a workable solution.”
“I know it is pretty and acts as a traffic calming device but it is very tight. Could you not connect those two cul-de-sacs together?” Flemming asked.
He was told that the boulevard was a required element based on the number of units and streets. Verderese stated and that data showed that fire trucks could adequately make maneuvers within the area. “There is plenty of room. This shows that they are able to stay in their own lane and as we know with emergency vehicles, we are comfortable with them crossing the center line if need be.”
“I’m not hearing any negotiation here,” Planning Board Chairman Robert Hudak told Tuvel regarding modification of the garage and driveway widths.
“You asked us to do some research. We came back to tell you what we learned. We feel the design works,” Tuvel said adding the applicant was still willing to work with the Board.
“I don’t buy it for one minute. I have gotten permits for work in my own home and it seemed like there were rules and regulations for everything I did. I can’t believe there wouldn’t be one for the size of a garage. I cannot accept that.,” Hudak said.
Tuvel replied, “Mr. Chairman we looked into that. We didn’t find anything but if you want an independent source to verify that from other professionals that is fine.”
“Regardless of what standards there are if it doesn’t look right and it doesn’t work right, it isn’t right. So, let’s make it right,” Planning Board member Jeff Riker said.
“The minimum size is 20 by 20 and when you have a 20 by 20 garage there is no way you can have a 15-foot driveway leading up to it. I think you are doing the potential buyers a disservice and it is misleading because I don’t think you should be able to market these as having two car garages.”
Hudak added, “it doesn’t fit the criteria number one and number two it is not okay to have two cars side by side in only a 15-foot-wide driveway. You’d be stepping on the grass and that is just not okay.”
“Two cars can fit in the garage if a homeowner wishes to do that but from the legality standpoint which governs this development, we comply with one space in the garage and one space in the driveway,” Tuvel added.
Jackson Parke South would be located off a 129-acre tract off West Veterans Highway. The proposal has its critics. Eleanor Hannum who heads the citizens group Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods of Jackson and Manchester (CUPON) have previously voiced environmental concerns regarding the project. Residents however, have not yet had the opportunity to speak out on the application.
Hannum posted to social media that Morris bought the property from Hovnanian during a bankruptcy sale with the agreement that the property would be written into Jackson Township’s Fair Share housing contract.
This agreement granted Jackson Township several hundred acres between the north and south with an easement to run water and sewer lines.
In recent years the Township Municipal Utilities Authority completed a $15 million, 3 MGD pressure filtration water treatment plant approximately one mile north of the project which will be utilized by Six Flags Great Adventure and other major projects.
“The legal push for this project is spearheaded by Fair Share Housing (a 501c3 organization) who has made very biased remarks in court hearings against the residents of Jackson,” Hannum said.
The developer seeks for Jackson to vacate historical Prospertown Road which would affect the historic Cassville Cranberry Bog cluster. Hannum and other opponents of the application have said this would devastate wetlands, habitat for the Pineland tree frog, Barred Owl, and federally protected swamp pink plant.
The project calls for importation of more than 77,000 tandem trucks of fill to raise the grade 10 feet in the north, surrounding wetlands and according to opponents of the plan, exhaust overflow of stormwater into the Rova Farms Lake tributary.
Hannum said this would raise the lake “during the rainy season and potentially flood residents downstream. This is an environmental disaster.”
Judgement On Jackson Parke North
Environmental concerns were raised regarding the first of two Jackson Parke proposals. The proposal for Jackson Parke North was rejected unanimously by the Planning Board in 2019. That application was for 551 single-family and multi-family homes.
Superior Court Judge Mark Troncone however reversed that decision stating it violated terms of an affordable housing settlement in 2017 that he presided over.
Troncone ordered the Planning Board to rehear and approve the application and while the Board did rehear it, the application has not yet been formally signed off on.
The judge also ordered the Planning Board to expedite and provide approval the Jackson Parke South development. Troncone assigned a court monitor to the case.
Critics of the application say Judge Troncone and the developer have ignored environmental concerns and have pointed to the fact that the northern and southern sites of Jackson Parke are included within the federally designated Pinelands Nation Reserve.
This land is just outside the state Pinelands Area which falls under the jurisdiction of the Pinelands Commission. Perrineville Road and West Veterans Highway serve as boundaries for the two project sites and have the same environmental characteristics. Due to this the land is subject to the review of the Pinelands Commission.
Resident Denise Garner, a former member of the Jackson Environmental Commission commented that “to have a judge force the hand of a township to build this kind of development in my view is unconstitutional.” She said some of the reports cited in reference to the application “are really outdated and should not be even considered for this application.”