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Decision awaited on proposal for private ATV riding center in Jackson

JACKSON – The members of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment may make a decision at their Dec. 1 meeting on an applicant’s request for a use variance that would permit the establishment of an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) training and riding center at Hawkin Road and West Veterans Highway.

The applicant, Faculty 2, LLC, and owner Nick Gennusa are seeking a use variance to construct an ATV training and riding center at Gennusa’s residence on Hawkin Road.

The property where Gennusa wants to establish the riding center is a 59-acre parcel in an R-5 residential zone.

The proposed active riding area is in the center of the property; a trail area surrounds the professional riding area and there is a junior riding area in the southwest corner of the tract, closest to neighboring residential lots.

Access to the site is on Hawkin Road, which serves as the border of Jackson and Plumsted Township.

Gennusa, 26, has raced ATVs professionally for seven years. He makes a living riding competitively and has turned training into a side business. He previously testified he does not teach people how to ride as much as he teaches riders how to improve their skills to become safer and more comfortable on an ATV.

Attorney Salvatore Alfieri, planner Ian Borden and acoustic expert Benjamin Mueller represented the application at the Nov. 17 zoning board meeting.

During the meeting, the zoning board’s engineer, Evan Hill, said he and board members Jeanine Fritch, Toniann Comello and Michelle Russell visited the Hawkin Road site on Oct. 16.

Hill said the visit was made at 9 a.m. on a clear and sunny Saturday. He said Gennusa rode an ATV and was able to have other ATVs operational to demonstrate what the site would be like if the use variance is granted.

“We were told they had 15 ATVs available to ride throughout the three areas of the site. Consistent with their testimony, they had five ATVs within the professional track area, five ATVs within the junior track area and five ATVs running around the perimeter trails as well. That occurred between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.,” Hill said.

Hill and Comello spent most of the visit in the middle of the property while the other two zoning board members were off-site to assess the noise level in regard to neighboring residences.

“While we were in the center of the site with all 15 ATVs traveling, (we) were able to have a normal conversation, with the exception of when Mr. Gennusa was showing off in front of us (on an ATV), but there was a large jump so he was literally 20 feet away from us.

“But when Mr. Gennusa was not (20 feet) from us, while we heard ATVs throughout the property, we could all hold and have a normal conversation without elevating our voices,” Hill said.

After the demonstration on the property, while Hill and the zoning board members were in a parking area, they were still able to have a normal conversation while 15 ATVs were being operated.

“What struck me was when we were in the parking area, closer to the house, what we tended to hear more … was traffic along the road passing us and nothing (from the) interior of the site,” Hill said.

Comello echoed Hill’s comments regarding having a normal conversation on the property and said, “looking at in on paper does not reflect what I had initially thought about the property. There are tons of trees. From my observation, I feel like there was a very good buffer from where the actual pits were to the outside of the property line.”

Fritch said she had concerns about the neighbors because “they were really passionate about their quality of life.”

“So on Oct. 16, I walked a property on Leanne Drive with Ms. Russell and the property owner happened to be outside. He had given us (prior) permission (to walk the property), but he walked the property with us. He was doing his lawn, he had his own equipment out, we could hear (the ATVs), but it was so faint to the traffic going by on Hawkin Road,” Fritch said.

After visiting Leanne Drive, the two zoning board members went to Hickory Lane.

“To be honest with you, Toniann (Comello) sent us a text to say they were starting (the ATVs) and we waited. We sent her a text asking ‘Are they going?’ She said all 15 ATVs were going. Personally, I could not hear a thing from Hickory Lane,” Fritch said.

She said vehicles traveling on Hawkin Road were louder than the ATVs.

Russell said she was surprised at how low the sound was from the property where the ATVs were being ridden at the locations she was visiting.

“We visited two different streets to listen to the noise levels there based on the neighbors’ complaints and to be honest, we really didn’t hear much at all. In fact, the lawn equipment that was being used (at a) residence was louder than anything we heard throughout the whole time,” Russell said.

She said motorcycles traveling on Hawkin Road were substantially louder than the ATVs that were being ridden on Gennusa’s property.

“I have to say, in my opinion, the noise levels (from the ATVs) were very minimal,” Russell said.

Borden noted other active outdoor recreation that is in the area, including the Central Jersey Rifle and Pistol Club which is less than a mile from the property where Gennusa is proposing to establish his riding center.

“Certainly this project promotes a lawful use of the land, as compared to the trespass (and illegal ATV use) that occurred before the Gennusas provided their ownership and stewardship to the property,” Borden said.

Following the discussion of the Oct. 16 site visit, the zoning board members decided to carry the Gennusa application to their Dec. 1 meeting. No additional testimony is expected to be presented. A decision on Gennusa’s request for a use variance may be made by the zoning board members that evening.

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