JACKSON – The members of the Jackson Township Council have adopted an ordinance that establishes the Rova Farms Advisory Board.
Township Council President Martin Flemming, Vice President Andrew Kern, Councilman Alexander Sauickie, Councilman Stephen Chislhom and Councilman Nino Borrelli voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the ordinance on Jan. 25.
The ordinance will establish a subcommittee to be known as the Rova Farms Advisory Board. Municipal officials said the panel will allow residents to help decide the future use of the Rova Farms property in the Cassville section of Jackson.
“Because of Councilman Sauickie’s efforts, and Councilman Kern, with the purchase of the Rova Farms property in 2019, this significant historic area of our town will be preserved for residents to enjoy for years to come. This continues our goal (of protecting) Jackson’s environment and natural resources,” Borrelli said.
“We wrote the ordinance to have up to 10 people participate on the (Rova Farms) subcommittee,” Sauickie said. “I am sure we have exceeded interest in that (number of people) already. People recognize (Rova Farms) is an important piece of history in the town and the subcommittee, with resident participation … certainly will be developed into something great with that level of participation.”
During the public hearing that preceded the council’s vote to adopt the ordinance, resident Elenor Hannum thanked the council members for establishing the advisory board.
“Rova Farms and the Cassville section of Jackson have a very, very strong and deep culture, especially for the Russian population, many of whom have since moved, but the culture and the history that goes back to Rova Farms and Cassville is very, very precious to me. I have many contributions from some of the older (individuals) who are no longer with us, who emigrated from Russia as it fell under Soviet control,” Hannum said.
Flemming noted that the Rova Farms property was purchased with open space funds and said, “The township is not in the habit of selling land at all. We are trying to acquire as much as we can to keep open space. So the possibility of (selling the property to a developer) is between little and none.”
A building on the property will be demolished, but Flemming said some items of historic value are being removed from the structure.
“(People) are looking to get an entire wall out of the building that has a mural and have that restored. There is an asbestos issue … the building is not salvageable; we are going to get everything out of it we can. It has gotten a lot of damage even recently from people breaking in,” Flemming said.
According to the ordinance, the Rova Farms Advisory Board will assist and advise Jackson officials in implementing and planning the future use and development of the Rova Farms properties that have been purchased and/or may be obtained in the future.
The advisory board will have up to 10 members appointed by the council and will include a person with a career in education; a person with an historical perspective or experience; a member of the Going Green Committee; and a member of the Jackson Pathfinders. All of the board’s members must live in Jackson.
Rova Farms dates to the early 20th century when an initial wave of Russian immigrants purchased 1,400 acres in 1934.
The Russian Consolidated Aid Society of America paid $50,000 for the land and the money was collected from thousands of Russians who were coming to America, according to a Washington Post article published Feb. 6, 1977.
Two Russian Orthodox churches were built at the site and children were taught to speak Russian as the immigrants sought to keep the culture of their homeland alive.
The people associated with Rova Farms were working-class individuals, primarily craftsmen and laborers, according to the Washington Post article.
In 2019, Jackson officials purchased 34 acres for $600,000 at 120 Cassville Road. The land was previously connected to the Rova Farms property. Municipal officials said the land was purchased for preservation purposes.