JACKSON – Residents and professional staff came out to testify before the Township Planning Board concerning a housing unit project that some feel might negatively impact the community.
The Jackson Trails, LLC, Lakewood, project proposed for S. Hope Chapel Road involves 367 single family homes and a house of worship.
The site encompasses 129 acres along the Manchester Township border and while 4.5 units are permitted per acre, only 3.6 units are being proposed. The zoning in the area was stated to have been the same for more than 35 years.
The project’s engineer is Professional Design Services. The project’s attorney, Salvatore Alfieri and its planner, Ian Borden, spoke during the meeting stating the project meets all permitted use regulations and township zoning.
Residents at the standing room only meeting came out to share their concerns surrounding the plan fearing a potential strain on area roads, traffic, infrastructure, schools, police, fire, EMS, environment, taxes and natural resources.
Resident Denise Garner, a former township environmental commissioner who ran for council last fall, spoke during the meeting. She said that several residents who live in the project site’s proximity had asked her to provide an environmental viewpoint on the plan.
“We are looking at an ecological and economic disaster. These are strong words but they are also true,” Garner said.
Garner said she had a concern about the site’s groundwater and the increase in development within the township overall and that the proposed project would add to creating issues of water depletion and potential water contamination.
Opponents of the proposed development feel it will bring approximately 500 families onto high density lots. Jackson currently has one, three- and five-acre minimums for some zoning.
Garner expressed a concern that additional water run from the Jackson MUA might strain water supplies and cause a draw down on aquifers affecting homeowners’ wells.
Borden, the planner for the development, maintained that the project would have no impact on existing water wells and would not put undue stress from the water pumping from the MUA. “We are not getting water from Manchester Township. Our water is coming from Jackson.”
Gary and Nancy Fish live on Basso Street which borders the proposed development. They said that like others in their neighborhood they do not want to see the environment disturbed and traffic congestion increased.
Nancy Fish listed their concerns as “the water consumption, traffic and our having to change our life style. We watch the deer, the birds and it is an enjoyable part of our lives. Now there will be a six-foot fence up that will block the air flow. We moved out here for a reason.”
The resident added that while she was pleased to see most of the neighborhood turn out for the meeting, that only a few people got to speak. The session started shortly after 7:30 p.m. and ended around 11:30 p.m.
“The neighborhood is not very happy to see that the structure of the road will change,” Nancy Fish said.
Gary Fish is a member of a committee that meets monthly at the Ocean County Courthouse whose purpose is to examine traffic congestion at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The group has state and federal representation, and members from Ocean and Burlington counties. They are looking at ways to lessen that congestion. Fish said that this new plan would be contrary to that goal.
“When I heard that we might get 500 homes in back of us I was thinking does one hand not talk to the other? I know we are going to have growth and Jackson is no longer considered rural but we are not planning smart,” Gary Fish said.
Borden added that the six species of animals that would be an issue for the Pinelands Commission were not habituating the project area.
Gary Fish said later in the week that a representative of the Pinelands Commission had visited the neighborhood seeking information and photos that area residents may have concerning the snake population in the vicinity. He said it was also his understanding that the last survey of species by the commission was done in 2005.
Pinelands Commission spokesman Paul Leakan said on Aug. 26 that an environmental study of the area encompassing the site plan, “was done a number of years ago. We received a report from a resident of a northern pine snake on Aug. 22. The sighting was on a parcel of land 1,000 feet from the site.”
Leakan said that once all testimony is heard and the application is approved, “the next step is for the township to act on the application concerning anything that may require further review.”
“If there is new information of snake or other species we’d make a determination on whether a new study is needed. We did issue a certificate of filing on April 5 and looked at all the environmental standards,” Leakan said.
“All the structures comply with the setbacks and we presented a traffic impact assessment,” Borden said during his testimony. The house of worship which is permitted in a non-residential zone, would be located on a corner lot 4.4 acres from the lot area. It would be a two-story building that would include three sanctuaries, and a full basement in an area over 9,000 square feet.
Borden said the project received approval from the Jackson Bureau of Fire Prevention and the Jackson MUA. The project is being reviewed by the Jackson Environmental Commission.
Jeffrey Riker, who serves on the board as the Environmental Commission’s liaison asked why the subject of a monitoring well at the site was not discussed earlier. “Why am I finding out about this tonight?”
Borden responded saying that an independent company had performed work and learned about the monitoring well and that he was unaware of it when he testified before the board last month and “quite frankly it will have no impact on our project.”
“Before we go any further with the Environmental Commission, I want to see everything that proves to me that you traversed that property. I feel blindsided,” Riker said.
“I will be happy to do additional site visits with or without the board members,” Borden said.
Further testimony will be heard during a Dec. 2 meeting of the Planning Board.