Jackson Seeks To Prohibit Dorms

At 38 Cross Street in Jackson, an application to build a Jewish school for girls and its dormitories was not approved. A proposed ordinance would automatically require applications for schools and their dormitories to pursue a use variance for most areas of Jackson. (Photo by Catherine Galioto)

JACKSON – Two ordinances that would prohibit dormitories in town are seen as an affront to the Orthodox Jewish community, some of its members said to the township council February 28.

That evening the council would have heard the ordinances, but they were moved to the March 14 council meeting.

Clerk Ann Marie Eden told council that the ordinances are required to be reviewed and approved by the planning board before council could consider adopting them. The ordinances of February 28 had not yet been reviewed. The planning board does not meet until 7:30 p.m. on March 6.

Men from the Orthodox community in Jackson turned out to protest an ordinance that would prohibit dormitories throughout the township. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

The two ordinances, 03-17 and 04-17, would prohibit public schools, workshops, warehouses, garages and storage yards in certain zones, and would prohibit dormitories in all zones within the township.

The February 28 council meeting was standing room only, with dozens of Orthodox Jewish men creating a crescent around the back of the main meeting chambers. Despite having to delay the second reading of the ordinances, several Orthodox men spoke against the ordinances, while three other residents spoke in support of it. The council at the meeting did not offer comments on the ordinances.

“My neighbors, the people around me, they accepted me and my family very nicely. I’m proud to be a member of the Jackson community,” Ari Margolis said, followed by thunderous applause from the men. He moved to Jackson last August. “That being said, as a grandchild of a survivor, I cannot be quiet. And as the grandson of someone who fought for the flag in World War II, I must speak up. The ordinance that is before us that would not allow dormitories in Jackson, I cannot see it as anything else but targeting the Jewish population. Who else in Jackson wants dormitories?”

Some of the other half dozen Orthodox men who spoke during public comment talked about being welcomed by neighbors, but used the word “insult” to describe the ordinances.

They said they came here because of the neighborhoods, because of the rural atmosphere. They said Lakewood has overcrowding and construction and traffic, but that’s not what they’re seeking with Jackson.

One man said, let an application come before the zoning board, and let them decide an individual application on its own merits without adding another layer of law, he added.

(Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

Bob Skinner, a real estate in New York City and longtime Jackson resident, said he has a large number of Jewish clients, and has no issue with anyone’s religion.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in Jackson, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in Lakewood,” Skinner said. “Now when I go into Lakewood, I see overpopulation. I see overbuilding. I see no regard to building. And, I see a hell of a lot of traffic. …I don’t want that coming here.”

Avid Schnall spoke last, and said no one wants monstrosities in their backyards and that no one is asking for that.

The group of Orthodox men attended the meeting because “they feel affronted. They feel, the residents of this town feel, the ordinance does single them out., and it does,” Schnall said.

“There’s a way to make this work for everybody. There’s a way that everybody could agree to a proper ordinance to maintain the beautiful quality of life, which attracted so many people to move here, which attracted so many to stay here, which attracted people of many generations to be here,” Schnall said. “We want to maintain that. We should maintain that. This ordinance does not maintain that. It goes way, way, way above and beyond, and it is hurtful.”

Council closed the meeting without commenting. The ordinance was introduced at the previous council meeting, and will wait to be added to the agenda until the planning board weighs in, likely at its March 6 meeting. The next council meetings are March 14 and 28.