Residents have say on plans for Jackson Parke South housing development

JACKSON – Residents expressed their views regarding the proposed Jackson Parke South residential development during the Feb. 1 meeting of the Jackson Planning Board.

The meeting was conducted in a virtual manner due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Jackson Parke South application is expected to return before the board for additional consideration on Feb. 8.

The applicant, EL at Jackson, LLC, is proposing to construct 549 residences on a 129-acre tract off West Veterans Highway in the Cassville section of Jackson. The project proposes 61 single-family homes, 144 apartments and 344 townhomes.

According to the application, 100 of the 144 apartments would be designated as affordable housing units. Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and/or families whose income meets certain guidelines.

The applicant is proposing to construct a 6,100-square-foot clubhouse with recreational amenities that would include a pool and a tot lot.

Planning Board Chairman Robert Hudak invited members of the public to comment on the application.

Resident Damian Carrillo suggested that the applicant provide more recreational space than the amount shown on the plans.

Earlier in the meeting, several board members indicated they would like to see recreational space provided for older children. The applicant’s representatives expressed a willingness to provide that space as a condition of approval.

In his comments, Carrillo said, “I have five kids. Kids will find a place to play no matter what, they are going to venture out into the woods over there. I have been back in those woods many times with my kids, just going through trails.

“But the close proximity to the safari at Great Adventure is more of my concern. When we walked through there with my children, I noticed how close it was, the animals are right there. Some kids are nice, some kids are great, they wouldn’t do anything to the animals. But there always could be that bad factor, somebody throwing rocks over the fence, doing something to the animals in some way shape or form,” Carrillo said.

He said he his home has well water and he said he believes the construction of Jackson Parke South will affect his well water.

Attorney Jason Tuvel, who represents the applicant, said Jackson Parke South has all of the requited utility and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection permits, which have been provided to the board.

Resident Jeff Nemeth objected to the virtual manner in which the meeting was being conducted, with individuals at separate locations instead of in a meeting room at town hall. He asked if any units at Jackson Parke South have been sold or if any units are on a waiting list.

Mitchell Newman, the director of land acquisition and entitlements for the owner and applicant, said no units can be sold until all of the necessary approvals have been obtained.

Nemeth said he asked if any units have been sold because he has been keeping close tabs on the project because he lives near where Jackson Parke South is planned.

“Then why recently were there comments and accusations of bias against the township people who were questioning this project? It is just an honest to goodness question, maybe we have some people who are for (the development), some people who are against it, but I am sure counsel can attest to this.

“That is something that was brought up against us and I would like to know the reason why, if no units are sold and it is a free for all for whoever wants to buy them, why were defamatory accusations of bias brought upon the people of Jackson questioning this project? I think we deserve to know,” Nemeth said.

Tuvel said the applicant is seeking subdivision and site plan approval from the board and said questions should relate to those issues.

“We can’t talk about litigation in this case,” the attorney said. “We are not here to talk about litigation, we are here to talk about a subdivision and site plan application.”

Nemeth said the relevance of his question is that people who are being impacted by the proposed residential development are inquiring about it in an honest matter.

He said he takes it personally when the integrity of his questions is questioned.

“I take that personally because I have nothing but the best interests for this town, and for people who aren’t even residents of this town to paint this town (in a certain way). That is 60,000 people you are labeling and it has been in print. So this is very relevant,” Nemeth said.

Tuvel said Nemeth is entitled to his opinion. He said the applicant’s representatives are happy to answer any questions about the site plan, the subdivision or testimony that has been presented in connection with the Jackson Parke South application.

“I have to say this is very disappointing. This is a good town with good people and everybody has the right to question a project. There are good projects, there are bad projects, and it does not make a person a bad person if they are not excited about the impacts (a project) could have on their homes, their properties, on their property values,” Nemeth said.

Several residents who spoke during the Feb. 1 meeting expressed concern about a connector road that is associated with the proposed project and about traffic issues related to the construction of hundreds of new homes in the community.