Jackson council members vote to create mixed use zone on Route 537

JACKSON – Members of the Jackson Township Council have voted to establish a Highway Commercial Mixed Use (HCMU) zone on Route 537.

Council Vice President Alex Sauickie III, Councilman Andrew Kern, Councilman Ken Bressi and Councilman Martin Flemming voted to adopt the ordinance on Feb. 11. Council President Barry Calogero was absent.

The HCMU zone will include areas generally located on the south side of Route 537 between the Interstate 195 corridor and the Hurricane Harbor Water Park, according to the ordinance.

Permitted principal uses in the HCMU zone will include all of the principal permitted uses in the Neighborhood Commercial zone and the Highway Commercial zone.

Principal uses include hospitals, medical research, surgery center and philanthropic eleemosynary (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.

Sauickie previously told the Tri-Town News the idea behind creating the new zone is to make it easier to bring commercial ratables to an area of Jackson that municipal officials want to see developed.

He said the HCMU zone is not an unusual or unprecedented zone and that Robbinsville in Mercer County has a similar area that is designated as a Planned Commercial Development zone.

During the public hearing that preceded the council’s vote to adopt the ordinance, Jack Trotta, a member of the Township Committee in nearby Plumsted Township, said he has raised the issue of traffic on Route 537 in Jackson with Ocean County engineers.

“As it is now, when Great Adventure has its mass exodus every night it is bumper to bumper traffic and that (Route 537) corridor is the main line to CentraState Medical Center,” Trotta said.

He explained that the hospital in Freehold Township is a facility of choice for many Plumsted residents.

“The traffic that is there (on Route 537) now concerns me. The athletic facilities that are being built there will bring more traffic and concerns me more,” Trotta said, adding that multi-family housing “does not quite fit the commercial zone there.”

Jackson resident Phil Stilton said he believes developments in the area, like Adventure Crossing USA, are great projects and represent the future of Jackson. However, he said he was “risking a lot” speaking out because he is friends with developers.

“We are changing a Highway Commercial zone to allow 500 apartments, regardless of what they are,” he said.

Stilton said the adoption of the HCMU ordinance could allow the Route 537 corridor in Jackson to become a city.

“I am risking the future of my business coming up here tonight, but I do not want to risk the future of Jackson either. If we approve this (ordinance) with all the lawsuits we have going on, we are going to be held liable.

“We just shot down two huge (residential development) applications that (municipal officials) felt were no good for the town. Now we have (other projects); we are just going to roll out the red carpet. As much as I like (Adventure Crossing USA), I don’t think that is the precedent we need to set,” Stilton said.

Shlomi Klein said he believes the council’s action regarding the HCMU zone is similar to how action would be taken in neighboring Lakewood, adding, “When I heard Jackson is able to (adopt) this ordinance because it is consistent with the town’s master plan, that means the master plan said that in this area we could do housing and you are saying because it says housing we could do multifamily housing and it is in check from the master plan. This is the typical way Lakewood would have written their master plan to be able to do that. Usually a master plan has specifics.”