Jackson residents fighting for ‘fair process and our quality of life’

Typing Letter to the Editor for the Opinion page.

By Elenor Hannum

How is it possible that the interests of New Jersey developers can supersede vital provisions in the Fair Share Housing Act, A-500, and when do the Fair Share Housing Center attorneys choose to turn their heads to such provisions as a means to help developers cash in at the expense of residents’ concerns?

Jackson Parke North is in the historic areas of Cassville and Rova Farms in Jackson Township. The project by Lennar and EL @ Jackson, owned by Jack Morris, will be transporting 100 truckloads of fill per day for the next two years.

This amounts to one truck every five minutes for eight hours every day; which also means that commuters who use Route 571 will have their commute disrupted for years and taxpayers footing the bill to repair township roads of Reed and Perrineville from deterioration of truck traffic.

These small country roads were not made for even a school bus and a car to pass, let alone a tandem truck. The massive fill demand for this development is only being done to elevate the land 10 feet above ground level so the property can accommodate basements for some of the 551 units due to a high water table and wetlands.

Ultimately, the two-part Jackson Parke project (North and South) will have 1,100 units total and the environmental impacts on the waterways, endangered species and historical sites, coupled with the lack of access to public transportation and employment, along with a storm water management plan that will exhaust into the Rova Farms Lake tributary, potentially flooding residents downstream.

Most, if not all, of these provisions are cited in the Fair Share Housing statutes and this developer, the Fair Share Housing Center’s attorney and an Ocean County judge has blatantly decided to ignore it.

In April, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Mark A. Troncone ordered the Jackson Planning Board to overturn their unanimous denial of the project.

On July 7, Judge Troncone sided with the Fair Share Housing Centeer and the developers, granting a final approval of the Jackson Parke north section and he assigned a monitor to oversee the south section’s approval.

Judge Troncone and Fair Share Housing Center attorney Adam Gordon ignored strong opposition and overwhelming credible evidence from Jackson residents and a new grassroots organization, Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods Jackson and Manchester (CUPON.JMOC).

CUPON.JMOC was created in late 2019 when residents sought to ensure responsible development and land use that upholds state and township laws.

We live here, enjoy our homes and neighborhoods, respect our schools, first responders and the importance of our environment, as almost half of Jackson is on well water.

CUPON conducts extensive research and analyzes documents provided by township and developers’ experts, applies codes, New Jersey statutes and then asks questions; a lot of questions.

What our young organization has discovered is that participating in the democratic process and practicing our First Amendment right, the freedom of speech (or asking questions), comes at a heavy price, especially when money is involved.

Not only has Mr. Gordon made baseless allegations of anti-Semitism against our organization and cited two other lawsuits, another questionable development we asked questions about and another with the Department of Justice, both without evidence of their allegations.

So who knows how U.S. Attorney General William Barr heard about our young hometown group?

But interestingly enough, similar to a high school rumor, if you say it enough times it must be true and those lies can be spewed alongside case law in a court brief.

But while Mr. Gordon, Judge Troncone and the Department of Justice regressed into their school age mentality, they never asked about our diverse membership of residents from all walks of life, ethnicity, culture and religion.

Therefore, when Judge Troncone sided with the Fair Share Housing Center on behalf of Lennar and EL @ Jackson to essentially mandate 1,100 housing units (Jackson Parke North and South) to accommodate 220 fair share (affordable housing) units, it was done with prejudice against the Jackson Planning Board, its experts, residents and CUPON.JMOC to ensure a financial windfall for the developers.

Judge Troncone actually chose to ignore residents’ concerns about potentially contaminated fill and sided with Mr. Gordon’s biased attacks and lies contained in letters to the judge stating that “the residents never brought up the fill,” ignoring Planning Board minutes of residents’ and CUPON.JMOC testimony.

As a result, CUPON.JMOC raised funds and retained legal counsel paid for by countless concerned Jackson residents to uphold our rights for a fair process and our quality of life.

It’s time to return land use decisions to local governments and to keep politics and financial influence out of local government decisions.

Elenor Hannum is the president of Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods Jackson and Manchester. She submitted this Your Turn guest column on behalf of the organization.