Public Wants To Be Heard On Adventure Crossing Plan

A rendering courtesy of Cardinale Enterprises

  JACKSON – It is unusual when an applicant who has approvals for an extensive project to come back to the Planning Board to downsize it.

  That is what happened during a recent Township Planning Board meeting when Vito F. Cardinale and three Adventure Crossing application professionals came before the board regarding the second phase of the project noting a 16% decrease.

  Several environmental groups have expressed opposition to the second phase of the Adventure Crossing development.

  Adventure Crossing USA (AC) is a 238-acre multi-phase development by Cardinale Enterprises along Route 537/Monmouth Road that sits between Six Flags Adventure, the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor and Anderson Road, Route 195, and the Jackson Outlet Mall.

  Prior to the meeting several environmental groups called for the public to attend the Zoom format Planning Board meeting. Save Barnegat Bay, Residents of Jackson, Clean Water Action, Crosswicks Doctors, Creek Watershed Association Inc. and Environment New Jersey would like to see the Jackson Planning Board reject aspects of the second phase of the project.

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   It was noted that phase II had been previously granted approval for three warehouses but had opted for two. The revised plan for the site calls for increased buffers on Holly Tree Court and eliminating an entry point on Anderson Road and the planned two warehouses would be shielded from public view.

Final Site Plan Map (Courtesy Cardinale Enterprises)

  “I am the developer and a partner in the project,” Cardinale said before sharing further details of his vision of the overall plan. “I want to address the false statements that have been on social media about the project. It is certainly not a warehouse project. It is still a sports and recreation project. We’ve done everything in this particular application to satisfy some of the neighbors that were unhappy in the original approval.”

  The 16% decrease is in the building size and a 28% decrease in the number of parking spots. “We’ve increased the buffers from two to three times as much as we could to help some people on Holly Tree Court. The site lighting will be shielded from the residents. Truck access will not come out on Anderson Road and will not go out in front of children on the baseball fields. It will be contained to the main road,” Cardinale added.

  He added that “kids won’t be running in front of 18-wheelers,” Cardinale said. He noted his ultimate goal was to build a medical research facility to “hopefully cure MS (Multiple Sclerosis). That is my main goal personally but I will hopefully satisfy many families and the town with a wonderful sports and recreation project.”

  Residents filed an appeal to challenge the previously approved plan for the site. Cardinale said that issue was resolved by his eliminating the residential component of the property which was a project next to Anderson Road.

  “There was also the removing of a golf tenant I had. People on that road were very unhappy with the height of the net and the height of the lighting. They thought it would make their lives very uncomfortable so we had to come back with another solution and the solution was to get the three warehouses approved which were approved and we could build them but we found from the market that they prefer to have only two. We’ve eliminated the residential component on that side of the project and moved it to the other side of the project away from Anderson and Holly Court,” Cardinale said.

  Cardinale said he has no tenants yet for the commercial warehouses. Phase I has been cleared of trees for construction and the warehouse project will be developed independent of the first phase. An emergency access point recommended by the township will be in place for Anderson Road “which we agree is the safest way to get people out of there if there is anything wrong on the main road.”

  “It will probably be a national tenant,” Cardinale said adding the warehouse area was in the location where he had originally planned a golf range on Anderson Road. “Obviously I didn’t want to see a warehouse there. I preferred to see the golf there and the convention center and everything else but we moved the convention center over”

   Cardinale added, “we’ve created a very large buffer from Anderson and the community right next store and even in the interior part of the project where we have the hotel, convention and the ball fields we didn’t want to see the warehouses. We created a very nice landscaping buffer between the warehouses and us.

  “We will not see the warehouses internally and my goal is to not let the people that live on the road and living in the community see the warehouses either. With the buffering and the landscaping and the distances we created and the angles we created, we will do everything in our power to make sure both the residents of Jackson on that road will not see them and we will not see them,” Cardinale said.

   The application began to be heard shortly after 10 p.m. which did not allow for as much testimony as desired. Professionals for the project spoke about the details of the revision. Members of the environmental groups and the public could not offer comment but some groups had previously criticized the building of the two warehouses that they fear would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week on Route 527 and Anderson Road near Route 195 of Garden State Parkway Exit 16.

  “Jackson township is one of the fastest growing towns in New Jersey. It seems like every time you look there’s a new development being proposed,” New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. “Adventure Crossing is the wrong project in the wrong place. It is in the Headwater area for two C1 streams, Toms River and Crosswicks Creek and would impact the Barnegat Bay watershed. It will also mean more traffic, more flooding, more pollution, and more sprawl.”

  Jackson Mayor Michael Reina previously referred to the project as the “start of the future” for Jackson. The mayor said the overall project which has been in development for several years, would provide a weekend destination point for the community with its sports recreation facility where athletes and parents would come to stay for a weekend or week-long visits.

  “If we want clean water flowing down the Toms River from Jackson to Barnegat Bay, then projects like Phase II at Adventure Crossings must be stopped. Phase II of this project proposes to clear-cut 72 acres of un-disturbed forest and cover the parcels with two gigantic warehouses,” Save Barnegat Bay Executive Director Britta Forsberg-Wenzel said.

  “We know that forests and woodlands are essential for filtering contamination out of stormwater runoff before it seeps into the aquifer and drinking water supply. Warehouses, parking lots, and truck traffic 24/7 is not a recipe for clean, safe, drinking water. This land should be permanently preserved through the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust before the bulldozers arrive,” CleanWater Action, NJ Board Chair Janet Tauro said.

   The first phase of the project called for the clearing of 93 acres of forest. Phase I includes a 50’+ Air Dome, multiple recreational and sports buildings and outdoor fields, two hotels, six fast food restaurants, two eat-in restaurants, and a gas and convenience center.

  Allan Proske, the owner of NJ Ruthless, who will be a tenant of Adventure Sports upon completion of the project and will also be a partner of Adventure Sports said, “I support the Sierra Club’s mission and certainly would love to discuss this with them. After eight years of planning and working, I am surprised they have not reached out to me or the landlord.”

  Proske believes Tittel was mixing the Adventure project with the Trophy Park project “since that is the one right next to Prospertown Lake. My piece of this project is solely the sports-based offerings. I run community and private based youth sports and mentor-based training that will be headquartered out of this site.”

  He added, “this is the main purpose of the facility – I cannot speak to the overall project which is driven by the landlord’s desire to end MS. I am actively involved with FRA – an organization that supports autistic and disabled children as well as the owner of NJ Ruthless. Ruthless is an organization with 15-plus former female Olympians that mentors’ girls in the world of sports as well as in life.”

  Proske called the project “a much needed one. Providing needed resources to girls, to families that have been priced out of the sports development world as well as a focus on strengthening values, teamwork and life skills: seems invaluable in today’s world.”

  “A child focused, inclusive offering across genders, abilities, economics simply does not yet exist in New Jersey but hopefully soon,” Proske added.

  Jackson resident Keith Jolliffee said, “the greater Anderson Road neighborhood is not a faceless community. We are a mix of young families, elderly and the disabled who moved here to live in a rural and quiet area. The Adventure Crossing project destroys that.”

  It was noted during the meeting that Holly Tree Court is a private access road and not a public right of way.

  Jackson Council Vice President Martin Flemming recommended the applicant consider purchasing two lots on that road to increase the buffer. “It would buffer four people’s back yards that have been critics of the project. It is a suggestion,” Flemming said.

  Business Administrator Terence Wall asked if consolidating buildings helped with “the logistics of the circulation element of the internal plan?”

  He was told it does and that it allows truck movement to operate more smoothly.

  Phase II of the project has received approvals from Ocean County and preliminary approval from the Jackson Township Municipal Utilities Authority for water and sewer. The applicant is awaiting approvals from the land use department of the State Department of Environmental Protection. The application was carried to the Board’s April 5 meeting.

  In a letter to Chairman Hudak, Jackson resident Randy Bergmann stated, “more than a dozen people opposing the project waited their turn to comment. They sat through more than four hours of testimony before the board determined at 10:50 p.m. it was too late to continue.”

  “No opportunities for public comment were provided. Now, the hearing and the public’s chance to be heard will be delayed for another 10 weeks. Before the meeting was concluded, it was noted that there were 63 people on Zoom. Many more may have grown tired of waiting and signed off,” Bergmann stated.

  His letter added, “given the level of opposition to this project, the board’s failure to invite public comment was outrageous. Opponents deserve to be heard – and not 10 weeks from now. The pandemic and the board’s decision to hold meetings remotely has made it even more difficult for the public to be heard.”