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Jackson Trails application fails to gain approval from Jackson planners

JACKSON – An applicant’s plan to construct 459 residential units and a house of worship on South Hope Chapel Road, Jackson, has failed to pass muster with the Jackson Planning Board.

When asked to reconsider the Jackson Trails application during a meeting on Dec. 2, no one on the board made a motion to do so. At that point the application was deemed to have been denied.

The property where Jackson Trails was proposed is near Jackson’s border with Manchester Township. Jackson Trails, LLC, was seeking approval to construct 367 single-family market rate homes, 92 affordable housing units in multiple buildings and a house of worship on a 130-acre tract.

The application was the subject of a public hearing on Oct. 7 and following a presentation by representatives of the applicant and public comment, a motion was made to grant Jackson Trails preliminary site plan approval.

Voting “yes” on the motion were board Chairman Joseph Riccardi, Michele Campbell, Township Councilman Ken Bressi and Leonard Haring Jr.

Voting “no” on the motion were Timothy Dolan, Martin Flemming, Township Administrator Terence Wall and Vice Chairman Robert Hudak.

The 4-4 vote meant the motion did not carry and preliminary site plan approval was not granted.

The board’s attorney, Greg McGuckin, said the 4-4 vote did not necessarily end the matter. He said a board member could make a motion to deny the application or make a motion to carry the matter to another meeting.

Wall made a motion to carry the application in the spirit of what he called fairness to the applicant and because residents who spoke that evening made what Wall said were valid points and presented new information.

The Jackson Trails application was back before the board on Dec. 2, represented by attorney Salvatore Alfieri.

“The board has denied this application, so we are not here tonight to present additional testimony. In fact, additional testimony cannot be submitted … we do not get a second bite of the apple in order to present testimony to support the application,” Alfieri said.

The attorney said the applicant filed a motion for the board to reconsider its  determination. He argued that the board’s jurisdiction was within the scope of Jackson’s ordinances and zoning laws.

“What we are proposing, again, we do not know what was going through the minds, particularly of the four members who voted ‘no,’ of what their reasoning was other than limited facts that were placed on the record, but we believe there might have been a misapprehension as to what they could consider and what they could not consider in deliberations,” Alfieri said.

He said one factor the board members commented on when they voted “no” was the age (i.e., when the report was produced) of the environmental report attached to the application. The environmental report was from 14 years ago.

“I understand board members and certain members of the public were unhappy with the age of that document, but there is nothing in (the township’s) ordinance that requires anything different,” Alfieri said.

He said another factor at the previous meeting was a discussion about off-site traffic conditions in the vicinity of Jackson Trails.

“This (proposed development) is on a county road and the county has jurisdiction of the traffic. Our job is simply to get on the road safely and efficiently. Beyond that it is up to the county to determine whether the road infrastructure system works,” Alfieri said.

Alfieri said a third point that was raised was Jackson Trails’ proximity to nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

He said a statement regarding the base was introduced by members of the public “late in the game (and) as was indicated by your counsel, that document is not a zoning ordinance, it is not binding on this board and in fact, that document was adopted prior to the adoption of the zoning ordinance.”

Alfieri said the Jackson Trails application complied with the law. He argued that the board members misunderstood their limits of jurisdiction and he asked the board to vote to reconsider the application and allow another vote.

McGuckin asked Riccardi, the board’s chairman, if there was a motion to reconsider the application.

Riccardi asked for a motion, but no one on the board made a motion to reconsider the Jackson Trails application. At that point the application was deemed to have been denied and members of the public who were in attendance applauded the outcome of the evening’s proceedings.

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