Jackson zoners approve parking garage at Adventure Crossing

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JACKSON – Members of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment have granted a variance to Cardinale Enterprises that will permit the developer of the Jackson Crossing 2/Adventure Crossing project to construct a parking garage at the Route 537 development site.

A parking garage is not a permitted use in the zone where Adventure Crossing is being constructed and the developer was required to seek a variance from the zoning board.

Many components of Adventure Crossing had already received approval from the Jackson Planning Board.

Regarding the proposed parking garage, representatives of Cardinale Enterprises testified before the zoning board twice in April. The variance was granted by the board during a meeting on April 21.

Chairman Carl Book Jr., Vice Chairman Scott Najarian and board members Steve Costanzo, Jeanine Kaunitz Fritch, James Hurley, Toniann Comello and Michelle Russell voted to grant the variance and preliminary and final site plan approval.

Jackson Crossing 2/Adventure Crossing is being developed on Route 537 between Interstate 195 and Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, near the Millstone Township border.

The project is expected to include fast food and sit-down restaurants; a convenience store with a gas station; two hotels; a convention center; outdoor sports fields; an Air Dome building with a sports bar, party rooms, an arcade and physical therapy space; two warehouse buildings; residential and commercial uses; and a multiple sclerosis research facility, according to previous descriptions of the project.

Attorney Salvatore Alfieri represented developer Vito Cardinale before the zoning board.

Planner Ian Borden said the parking garage “is (needed) to meet the parking demands of the entire project. Most specifically, it is driven by the convention center.”

Hilton and Marriott will have hotels at the Adventure Crossing site and will share a 100,000-square-foot convention center, with the goal to bring conventions to the location.

The parking garage, which would include about 1,100 spaces on five or six levels, would be constructed near the proposed medical research building. The two structures would not be connected.

Borden said the parking garage would not be higher than the four-story medical research building.

Cardinale has said the project is more than just a sports and entertainment facility. He said profits from Adventure Crossing would help to fund the multiple sclerosis research center.

He told the zoning board members his late wife had multiple sclerosis. Cardinale said the planned research facility in Jackson would employ more than 100 people.

Tenants at the site are expected to include 7-Eleven, Taco Bell and Popeye’s. The applicant’s representatives said negotiations are underway with Jersey Mike’s and Starbucks.

During public comment, Tracy McKinney, who lives behind the property that is being developed, said she has seen work trucks “coming down a dirt lane, driving over a dirt way onto private property, onto the road, to access Holly Tree Court.”

“I want to get that on the record and get that stopped immediately,” McKinney said.

Alfieri said the resident’s comments were heard and he said Cardinale “will make sure if it is an employee or one of the contractors, it is emphasized that no one is supposed to use that access point.”

Resident Aurus Bayan lives near the site and discussed traffic concerns.

“I am looking at the expansion of the jughandle on Route 537 traveling east. It seems you have turned a relatively uneventful U-turn (motorists use) to go to Wawa, Burger King or McDonald’s (across Route 537) into a traffic nightmare with big trucks, and through all the rest of the traffic within the project. So I don’t know if that is necessarily a great idea,” Bayan said.

She said five lanes for vehicles at a proposed traffic light would cause “mass confusion” and said, “I think it is going to be a nightmare.”

Bayan asked if the developer’s traffic study was performed during different seasons.

“We know we have a traffic nightmare for Great Adventure during a certain time of year, we have a traffic nightmare for (nearby outlet stores) at a certain time of year, plus shore traffic and the like. Did you do the traffic study in the middle of the winter when nobody is traveling anywhere?” the resident asked.

Traffic engineer John Rea said his firm has been involved with the Adventure Crossing project for a substantial amount of time.

“We have also done work for (Great Adventure) over the years. We have done traffic counts on Route 537 and at the intersections in question every season, and on weekends and weekdays. … The highest traffic counts we recorded were in the summer of 2018 and those highest traffic counts were used in the traffic study” for Adventure Crossing, Rea said.

Great Adventure, Hurricane Harbor and the outlet stores, which are all on Route 537 in the vicinity of where Adventure Crossing is being developed, were all open during the time when the traffic study was conducted, according to the applicant’s representatives.

Following the conclusion of testimony and public comment, the board members granted approval for the specific items Cardinale Enterprises was seeking in its amended application.