JACKSON – Residents gathered at Jackson Memorial High School on Aug. 15 to make their concerns known to the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment in regard to an application that seeks to establish medical offices in a residential zone.
Allen Morgan and Morgan Harmony Development are seeking a use variance from the zoning board to construct three buildings for medical offices in an R-1 residential zone where that use is not permitted.
At present there is a home at the location, 720 Harmony Road, at the intersection of Jackson Mills Road. The home would be demolished if the application is proposed.
Morgan wants to construct one two-story building (11,000 square feet) and two one-story buildings (each one 2,000 square feet).
Attorney Ray Shea presented testimony from engineer Ian Borden, architect Jim Monteforte and owner-applicant Allen Morgan on Aug. 15.
Attorney Ron Gasiorowski represented Jackson resident Marianne Campbell, who is an objector to the application.
Before the hearing began, Gasiorowski said he wanted to note an objection to the application’s notice, which informs the public about what is being proposed at a particular site.
Shea called his fellow attorney’s objection “laughable.”
In testimony before the board, Morgan said he is a obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. He has offices in Old Bridge and Lakewood.
Morgan said his father moved the family to Jackson in the mid-1960s after living in Europe during military service. He testified his father was a physician at nearby McGuire Air Force Base before opening offices in Brick Township and Jackson. Morgan said he has lived in Jackson for more than 50 years.
“We have experienced growth in Jackson in the last 50 years and we felt it personally when (a building in which his father had an office) was knocked down, but it was good, the growth and expansion in the town,” he said.
Morgan said he looks at his proposal as a way of bringing medical services to what he initially described as an “isolated area.”
“Well, it use to be very isolated,” he said. “Just coming here tonight and seeing all the building going on in the area, it is unbelievable what has happened in Jackson.”
Morgan elaborated on the type of medical offices that are being proposed.
“Primary medical care … (such as) diabetes, endocrine, nutrition, physical therapy, yoga, and possibly ophthalmology and cardiology,” he said.
Morgan said no retail sales are proposed at the three buildings.
“This is not a retail application. I know there is some confusion about whether this might be a retail location and maybe it created a lot of confusion … and rumors of other types of organizations moving into the location, which is completely false. It is 100 percent a doctor’s office from the beginning or multiple doctors’ offices right from the beginning,” he said.
The zoning board’s chairman, Sheldon Hofstein, asked if the offices will be rented or purchased. Morgan said the office space would be rented by tenants.
Gasiorowski asked Morgan how many physicians would be at the location each day.
Morgan said it was too early in the process to answer that question.
“We have physicians who are interested in going into this location with all these sub-specialties, but we are talking two years away and no one is going to commit to sign a lease two years ahead of time without an approval. So that is a very premature question,” Morgan said.
During public comment, some residents said they believe the intersection of Harmony and Jackson Mills roads is dangerous now and suggested the situation would be worse if medical offices are constructed at the corner.
Joseph Lamendella asked how the proposed medical offices would benefit the community any more than healthcare that is being offered by corporate providers doing business in the immediate area.
Borden said he did not believe the comparison Lamendella sought to make between the proposed medical offices and facilities that are affiliated with regional hospitals and/or corporations was applicable.
Billie Powers said a healthcare facility several miles away in Jackson has more than 100 doctors and specialists, plus urgent care, a fitness and wellness facility, and a pharmacy, among other services. She said that facility is affiliated with regional hospitals.
“Please explain to me how these three buildings (at 720 Harmony Road) will be of service to the public good and will add more jobs to Jackson,” Powers said, asking why certain doctors would want to compete with a regional healthcare provider.
Morgan said there are doctors “who do not work for large corporations” who want to have their own office. He said Powers “mentioned all these hospital systems and thousands of doctors who work for corporations, but there are a lot of doctors who do not want to do that.”
One resident asked if there would be a fertility clinic at the location and Morgan said there would not be a fertility clinic.
Joseph Cicalese said Jackson’s master plan “refers to a diverse array of land uses and availability that continues to be available in the town today. I do not understand why (the proposed medical offices) have to be in the middle of a residential zone when a mile down the street in either direction (the applicant) can go to (a) limited commercial (zone), (a) highway commercial (zone), (a) neighborhood commercial (zone), whatever they want. Why does it have to be in the middle of a residential zone?”
The Morgan Harmony Development application was carried to the board’s Oct. 17 meeting.