JACKSON – After months of late night meetings, the Township Planning Board, through a unanimous vote, approved the Jackson Parke South development.
Some members noted they “reluctantly” voted in support of the application by EL at Jackson located on a129-acre tract off West Veterans Highway in the Cassville section of Jackson. The developer wanted approval for a 549-unit single-family and multi-family development.
The project involves 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.
El at Jackson’s primary owner is Jack Morris who owns the property of Jackson Parke South.
One issue of concern that remains is a connector road which is the subject of litigation. The developer is looking to use Reed Road and Perrineville Road prior to the connector road’s creation. The road is needed due to those Jackson roads being unable to handle construction vehicles.
The proposal received criticism and a legal challenge by the membership of Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods of Jackson and Manchester (CUPON) who have previously voiced environmental and traffic concerns regarding the project.
CUPON’s attorney Ron Gasiorowski cross examined the developer’s experts during Planning Board meetings held on February 8 and March 15. During the March 22 meeting the applicant’s attorney Jason Tuvel and Gasiorowski made their final summation before the Board deliberated on the matter and called for a vote.
During the proceedings, Tuvel accused Gasiorowski of rehashing the same questions to some of the developer’s experts. Gasiorowski also noted the need for the developer to have an easement from the municipality so that the developer can utilize publicly owned property for private parking spaces.
“I would respectfully say that it is impossible for this proceeding to go forward. How can you go forward without having that agreement in place?” Gasiorowski said during one meeting to which Board Attorney Sean Gertner responded it could because “it is not yet owned by the municipality. It is only proposed to be and in my opinion to the board it is not a condition precedent moving forward with the application.”
Board Chairman Robert Hudak said at one point that Gasiorowski “was going around in circles.”
CUPON leader Eleanor Hannum explained her and her organization’s opposition to the plan. During an earlier meeting she said, “I grew up along Rova Farms Lake. I know the environmentally sensitive nature of that property.”
Hannum added, “residents reach out to us and ask for help. That is what we do as a group. I am concerned with the nature as to how this property is going to be impacted. I do know it is part of the Barnegat Bay watershed.”
Hannum added, “I am a historian. I am a teacher. That is what I do. As we were doing our research, we discovered that most of this area is on the DEP (NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection) preservation registry. Sections of that are being completely ignored. Perrineville Road is on the historical registry.”
Jeff Nemeth lives on Perrineville Road and told the board during the March 15 meeting that he objected to this project 10 years ago when it was proposed by a different developer.
“I am all for building. I do it for a living. I’ve lived in this town for almost 20 years,” Nemeth said. “There are some big concerns with the watershed and the tributary and the water table and wetlands and our own wells. If you have so many (environmental groups) that do this for a living saying this stuff is wrong. I have to ask each and every one of you guys on the board before any hasty decisions are made, I think this onion should be peeled a lot deeper.
“God forbid this gets approved because of some silly Fair Housing Act loopholes before all the layers are uncovered. This really needs to be looked at deep and hard before anything gets accepted,” Nemeth added.
The application was accepted with a number of caveats that were agreed to by the developer. They included compliance with the Board’s professionals’ reports, receipt of all required outside agency approvals, compliance with all affordable housing obligations and the need for a developer’s agreement.
Also required was the need for Home Owners Association documents. For this application there are two such associations, one for the entire tract and one for the multi-family area. There also needs to be a sectionalization phasing plan which specifically sets the timing for building. There also needs to be revisions to the plans discussing site amenities such as a garbage area at the club house.
Also agreed to by the applicant was passive recreational facilities and Prospertown Road right-of-way improvements. There was also discussion of off-site sewer easement realignment and agreement for shade trees and emergency access along West Veterans Highway.
A Board member also called for coordination with the Board of Education pertaining to school bus stop locations within the site.
Board Chairman Robert Hudak said the applicant had several “bridges to cross with other agencies. We took an oath to abide by the New Jersey land use law.”
Board Attorney Sean Gertner added that one such bridge was the connector road issue. He drafted a resolution that he said would serve as an “enforcement mechanism of the municipality in this application for the municipality’s protection and the public’s as well a developer’s agreement will also address some of these concessions and issues.”
Board member Jeff Riker, who also chairs the township’s Environmental Commission, added that the time to address environmental aspects of the application was during Environmental Commission meetings.
“There was no public whatsoever for this portion of the project. That is your time. That is your moment. That is when people need to speak. I would ask the public to take note and start to attend the Environmental Commission meetings,” Riker said.
Board member Timothy Dolan said he voted yes, “reluctantly because I don’t like the impact but it abides by the law and that is what we swore to do.”
“I also commiserate with our residents who enjoy the rural nature of that environment, however, given the lack of variance requests and our obligations I vote yes,” Board member Michele Campbell said.
Board member Andrew Jozwicki said “I agree with my colleagues on this and reluctantly vote yes as well.”
Board members Martin Flemming, Terence Wall, Joseph Riccardi Anthony Luisi, Board Vice Chair Leonard Haring Jr. and Hudak each voted yes.