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Jackson planning board votes to deny north section of Jackson Parke

JACKSON – A developer’s plan to construct 551 single-family and multi-family homes on 226-acres off Perrineville Road has been unanimously denied by the Jackson Planning Board.

Following the completion of testimony and public comment about the north section of the proposed Jackson Parke development, board members voted 8-0 to deny the application on Nov. 4.

After a motion was made to deny the application, Chairman Joseph Riccardi and board members Jeffrey Riker, Timothy Dolan, Martin Flemming,  Robert Hudak, Leonard Haring Jr., Township Administrator Terence Wall and Township Councilman Ken Bressi voted “yes” to deny the project.

The applicant, Jackson Parke, was seeking approval to construct 551 single-family and multi-family units off Perrineville Road. The project would have included 120 affordable housing units.

A second application for a south section of Jackson Parke proposes the construction of 549 single-family and multi-family units on a 129-acre tract off West Veterans Highway. That project would include 100 affordable housing units. The application has been carried to the board’s Dec. 2 meeting for scheduling purposes.

During public hearings regarding the Jackson Parke north section, residents voiced their opposition to the application for hours at a time.

Residents expressed concern about environmental issues, endangered species on or near the property, building on or near wetlands, drainage, flooding and traffic associated with hundreds of new homes.

Attorney Jason R. Tuvel represented the applicant at the Nov. 4 meeting. Following hours of public comment, he told the board members there would be consequences if they denied the application.

“The application is permitted, there are no variances (requested). We came here, we had good discussions with the board, there was good public comment, there was good interaction with the board’s professionals, and now we have conditions that can make this project a lot better than what it originally came in as. I know I am going to start talking about some hard topics here, but there are consequences of the board not approving this application,” Tuvel said.

He said the consequences involve Jackson’s affordable housing agreement.

“First and foremost, the conditions in connection with approval of the application; the applicant is agreeing to those conditions which are off-site … If the application is denied, a judge can overturn the (board) and not impose any of the conditions we agreed to work with,” Tuvel said.

“The board has a situation where obviously it could approve the application. It would not be a popular decision based on the amount of (residents who) have come out against the application, but what we tried to do as part of this process is comply with all of the ordinance requirements that have been imposed upon us,” Tuvel said.

Bressi responded to the attorney and said, “I am not happy with your threatening the (affordable housing agreement) … As you know, if this (development) is not built, we do not get hurt with our (affordable housing agreement), we are protected until 2026 … as long as this land can still be built on with a reasonable application that would carry forward.”

Bressi said he respects the courts and judges, but he said Jackson officials had no choice but to change the zoning on the property from age-restricted housing to family homes because they were ordered to do so by a judge.

Bressi echoed a concern that had been voiced by many residents regarding the possibility that some of the nearly 80,000 yards of soil the applicant proposed to bring to the Perrineville Road site could be contaminated.

“The amount (of soil) coming in, what are the odds of two or three bad loads coming in? Your (Jackson Parke) project is on sanitary water and sewer, but all of the surrounding buildings are on wells. We do not need contamination,” Bressi said.

He praised the applicant’s engineer’s testimony regarding storm water management and said it would be great for Jackson Parke, but added, “My question is when you build an island higher than everything else around it, where is the water going from around it?”

Bressi criticized the developer’s proposal to include basements in the homes because of the high water table in the area. He said he was disappointed that certain questions regarding Jackson Parke had not been answered.

During the course of the hearings, some residents called on Bressi to step down from the Planning Board and from the Township Council because of what they said what alleged bias on his part regarding the application.

“It was a bankruptcy, you (the developer) bought it, we got the zoning shoved down our throat because you got the privilege to build it that way (without age restrictions). But the one thing when I voted yes on that (affordable housing) settlement, I got blasted in here for voting yes on that.

“One, the lot sizes became bigger, not big enough as we wanted, and two, it had to come back in front of the Planning Board for an approval, in your (Tuvel’s) words an appropriate approval. In my words, Mr. Chairman, are you ready for a motion?” Bressi said, adding that based on the merits of the Jackson Parke application it did not warrant an approval.

Bressi made the motion to deny the application and he and his fellow board members voted 8-0 to deny the proposed north section of Jackson Parke.

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