JACKSON – Residents and officials weighed in on the creation of a Highway Commercial Mixed Use (HCMU) Zone on Route 537 during a recent Township Council meeting.
The ordinance, which was introduced on Jan. 28, and unanimously approved on Feb. 11, involves areas located on the south side of Route 537 between the Interstate 195 corridor and the Six Flags Great Adventure Hurricane Harbor Water Park.
Hospitals, medical research facilities, surgery centers and charitable uses, convention/conference centers, exhibition halls, convenience stores with gas stations, stadiums, banquet facilities, distribution centers, warehousing, open air theaters and multifamily residential dwelling units are all deemed to be principal uses.
It was noted that the primary uses in the zone would include all of the principal permitted uses in the Neighborhood Commercial zone and the Highway Commercial zone.
Vice President Alex Sauickie III, Councilman Andrew Kern, Councilman Ken Bressi and Councilman Martin Flemming voted for it. Township Council President Barry Calogero was absent due to illness.
Sauickie said previously that the idea behind the new zone was to draw in commercial ratables in a location of the township that the governing body wants to see developed. Previously, the township faced the problem having to piece together multi-zoned properties.
Sauickie said during both meetings that such a move did not set a precedent and that other communities in the state had taken similar actions with their zoning.
Plumsted Committeeman Jack A. Trotta spoke to the governing body about his concerns during the evening.
“When I was mayor in Plumsted I brought up to our county engineers several times the development that has happened over in that area of Jackson,” he said. “As it is now, Great Adventure has their mass exodus five o’clock or so every night and it is bumper to bumper cars. That corridor is the main artery to CentraState Medical Center – a hospital of choice of many residents of Plumsted. Traffic that is there now concerns me and the athletic facilities that are being built there will bring more traffic (which) concerns me more. I understand that everyone has the right to develop their property as they see fit as long as it within zoning.”
Trotta went on to say he agreed with parts of the ordinance but was opposed to the “multi-family residential zoning which doesn’t quite fit with the commercial zone there. I have a lot of concerns about traffic but this also brings other issues. The dwelling units are my only concern and traffic in general.”
Resident Eleanor Hannum said she supported the ordinance saying “it is very much needed for ratables in this town.” She did voice concerns about the expansion of uses within the commercial zone. “It’s going from mini-warehouse self-storage to distribution center and warehouse for distribution of products.”
“The multi-family residential units are also of some concern. As had been said when Route 537 gets backed up the traffic is very, very bad. If you have an emergency as I did several years ago it is very difficult to get up through 537 to that hospital.”
Resident Denise Garner presented Sauickie a map showing wetland areas and other environmentally sensitive locations within the new zone. “We just had our master plan review. I guess this was brought up after the fact. As previous individuals have stated, the traffic in that area is horrible now. It will become ten times worse. There will also be impact on the ground water.
“We need to look at the recharge ability of that water track and the ground water. We need to start looking at that. We have all these important resources. This township needs to be a leader not a follower and not to bow down to a person who wants to make a buck for themselves,” Garner said.
The measure was part of a campaign promise Sauickie said that he, Kern and Reina, ran on to help increase smart commercial ratables in the township and to provide additional commercial revenue that would provide residents a financial break and to position (the ratables) in a smart location. That meant Route 537.
Resident and former zoning board of adjustment member Joseph Sullivan said “you need this kind of zoning.”