Apartment plan awaits site plan approval from Jackson zoning board


JACKSON – During their meeting on Feb. 3, members of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment may decide to grant preliminary site plan approval to two applicants who are seeking to construct 192 apartments on West Veterans Highway (Route 528).

In 2020, board members granted use variances to the applicants, Dr. Ira Port and Alan Cohn.

One application sought and received a use variance for a 29-acre tract in a Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zone. The property has an existing diner. Port and Cohn proposed to construct 112 apartments in seven two-story buildings and 23,000 square feet of commercial space. That site is referred to as Parcel A.

A second application sought and received a use variance for an 11-acre site in an NC zone. The property is partially improved with a 14,500-square-foot commercial building. Port and Cohn proposed to construct 80 apartments in five two-story buildings and 7,000 square feet of new commercial space. That site is referred to Parcel B.

Attorney Kenneth Pape represented the applicants at the zoning board’s Jan. 20 meeting and spoke about the obligations for site plan approval. He reminded the board the use variances had already been granted.

He said the board members determined that at the time site plan approval was sought, the issue of affordable housing would be addressed.

“We have had the opportunity to meet with your staff, we have received your staff reports. I am pleased to share with you that the applicant is prepared to incorporate 20% affordable units in the project (38 affordable units). We propose to intersperse them throughout the buildings,” Pape said.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.

Pape said the project would primarily consist of one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, but the attorney said providing some three-bedroom apartments as affordable housing would be acceptable to the applicants.

Another part of the discussion on Jan. 20 concerned a phasing plan.

“We specifically said we would have two elements of the phasing plan, recognizing close proximity to schools. There was a request that we have a time of year construction phasing plan, and there was also a request that we tie the number of residential units to the commercial development.

“This board and subsequently your professionals pointed out to us that other applicants have come before this board and the planning board, gained approvals that had residential and commercial (space) and did not deliver on the commercial (space),” Pape said.

He said Port and Cohn are concerned about current economic conditions and asked that some obligations be permitted to wait until final (not preliminary) site plan approval is requested.

“We are very worried and concerned that we would make a commitment to this board that we may have difficulty honoring. Not because of our sincerity, but because of the COVID-19 conditions and general economic conditions that are affecting commercial development.

“I believe we will be in a much clearer and stronger position to make a commitment that we would not have any difficulty saying we could honor, if we did that commitment at the time of final site plan approval,” Pape said.

Following Pape’s comments, no one on the board objected to allowing some aspects of the application to remain undecided until such time as the applicant seeks final site plan approval.

Discussion of the applicant’s request for preliminary site plan approval is expected to take place on Feb. 3.