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Jackson zoning board grants approval for ATV training and riding center

JACKSON – The members of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment have voted 6-1 to grant a use variance that will permit a property owner to establish an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) training and riding center on a site at Hawkin Road and West Veterans Highway.

The action was taken during a meeting on Dec. 1.

A use variance requires five affirmative votes and on a motion to grant the variance, zoning board Chairman Scott Najarian, Vice Chairman Steve Costanzo, Carl Book Jr., Jeanine Fritch, Toniann Comello and Lynne Bradley voted “yes.” Board member James Hurley voted “no” on the motion.

The applicant, Faculty 2, LLC, and owner Nick Gennusa plan to construct an ATV training and riding center at Gennusa’s residence on Hawkin Road. The property is a 59-acre parcel in an R-5 residential zone.

An active riding area will be created in the center of the property; a trail area will surround the professional riding area; and there will be 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.

The zoning board’s engineer, Evan Hill, and several board members visited the property on Oct. 16. prior to a public hearing that was conducted in November.

Attorney Salvatore Alfieri represented the application at the Dec. 1 meeting. No additional testimony regarding the ATV facility was placed on the record that evening.

Before the application was voted on, Book discussed what he deemed to be important points in the board’s consideration of Gennusa’s proposed use for the property.

“When the application came in and we looked at it just on paper, it looked like a very, very, very difficult application to consider, especially in light of the fact it is surrounded by residences. In this particular instance, we had the opportunity to go out and actually take a hard look at these premises and in my opinion that was a pretty important thing we did,” Book said.

Book went on to say, “For one thing, this entire parcel is for the most part wooded. Two, it is a very unique piece of property. At first, I could not imagine what this site would look like, (it was) a prior excavation site. So that really had me thinking about what has actually gone on here and what might be a particularly useful and appropriate use of this property as it is currently designed.”

“Suitability was in the back of my mind; how is this piece going to fit in? So when we got out there and we actually got to view it, it was a fairly comprehensive view. The Gennusas took us around and we looked at the perimeter, and we also looked at the interior,” Book said.

“The trails are rugged … it is not asphalt laden. … You can see (where) there must have been big earth mover types of machines taking all kinds of dirt out and leaving great big pits in the ground.

“Maybe that was permitted way back when, but they really did a number on this property” in terms of excavating the site, Book said, before adding he was impressed by Gennusa’s intended use of the property.

“I’m thinking what better use, or is this even a suitable use, to work these ATVs in here, because (Gennusa is) actually using the contours that had been created by the prior excavation.

“I’m thinking that is really pretty clever, someone found a piece of property they don’t have to excavate and they don’t have to remove trees. They are not going to remove trees, they don’t want to bring in asphalt, they don’t want to destroy the overall natural beauty of the large parcel of property,” Book said.

He credited Gennusa as being “the guy who has the experience, the knowledge and the know-how” to impart to those he is seeking to train by virtue of this facility.

“I was impressed by his testimony, I was impressed by his ability to use those machines. I do not believe this is a rookie operation being done by somebody who is ill-prepared and going out on a limb trying to do something for the first time and maybe he falls on his face and maybe he doesn’t, maybe people get hurt and maybe they don’t. … I got the impression this is a professional who is trying to put together a professional facility on a piece of property that is very suited to its use,” Book said.

The board members then voted 6-1 to grant the use variance that will permit Gennusa to establish the ATV facility.

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