JACKSON — The members of the Jackson Planning Board have granted final major site plan approval to an application filed by Jackson Development Company, LLC, for a recreation, walking and bike path at property owned by J21OS, LLC, that is between West Fish Road and the north side of Freehold Road.
The application was the subject of a public hearing before the board on June 6 at the municipal building. The property is in Jackson’s Planned Mixed Unit Residential Development zone and consists of 217 acres.
Jackson Development Company was represented by attorney Ronald Shimanowitz, who noted the application was most recently heard in December.
Shimanowitz updated the board and said the applicant is proposing to have the township take title to the open space lot and to own what he referred to as the bike path. In that scenario, no development other than the stone dust path would ever be permitted on the large tract, the attorney said.
By way of background, Shimanowitz noted that a resolution memorialized by the board on June 18, 2012 granted a five-year preliminary site plan approval to establish 1,031 residential units in the southeast and southwest sections of the Jackson Woods development.
A resolution memorialized by the board on Aug. 21, 2017 extended the approval to June 18, 2021. The approval was further extended by the Permit Extension Act.
Shimanowitz said the southeast portion of Jackson Woods is under construction.
Representatives of Jackson Development Company were before the board on June 6 to seek final site plan approval to construct a 2,735-foot-long, 8-foot-wide recreation, walking and bike path through the property, which the applicant described as an open space lot that is a component of the original preliminary site plan approval for the southeast and southwest sections of Jackson Woods.
The purpose of the path is to serve the present and future residents of the southeast and southwest sections of Jackson Woods, according to Shimanowitz, who said the path would be open to the public and not just to residents of Jackson Woods.
Shimanowitz said it is the developer’s intent to provide full access through the southwest section of Jackson Woods to Freehold Road.
Engineer David Eareckson of Matrix New World Engineering testified on behalf of the applicant. He said the first item that would need to be addressed in the plan Shimanowitz outlined would be for Jackson municipal officials to accept the property from the developer.
Permits would then have to be sought by the township from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through a process Eareckson said could take six months.
Upon receipt of the permits from the DEP, the path would be constructed by Jackson Development Company, which would remain financially liable for all of the costs associated with the path and the permitting process, according to Eareckson.
Eareckson said there is developable land on the parcel the applicant wants to donate to the township that will never be developed if the scenario put forth comes to fruition.
Shimanowitz said if the Planning Board approved the application as proposed, the applicant would have to appear before the Township Council to seek approval of its plan to deed the property to Jackson.
Attorney Sean Gertner, who represents the Planning Board, said if municipal officials decline to take ownership of the property and the path, the applicant would have to return before the Planning Board with another proposal in order to proceed.
When the meeting was opened to the public, resident Mike Herenchak addressed various aspects of the application. Herenchak raised issues regarding the cost of the path and security on the path.
“I don’t think much of the public is going to use this (path). It seems like a bike path for these (Jackson Woods) communities,” Herenchak said. “If it’s not done right we are going to have an unsafe area and it’s near my property. If you are going to do it, do it right.”
Eareckson said the bike path through Jackson Woods would connect to a development on Commodore Boulevard without putting bicyclists on Cedar Swamp Road. He contended that the general public would use the new community amenity.
Board member Timothy Dolan said he was concerned that if the township owns the land on which the path is created, the township will be responsible for liability on the path.
“I’m not sure that’s a gift,” Dolan said.
“We are mindful of your comment,” Shimanowitz said to Dolan.
Township Councilman Martin Flemming, who sits on the Planning Board, said the amount of land that would be added to Jackson’s inventory of land by accepting the path would be minimal and would not come at a significant insurance cost.
Board member Michele Campbell said she viewed the proposed path as a benefit to Jackson.
A motion was made to grant final major site plan approval to the application filed by Jackson Development Company.
On a roll call vote, board Chairman Robert Hudak, Vice Chairman Len Haring Jr. and board members Jeffrey Riker, Jackson Business Administrator Terence Wall, Joseph Riccardi, Dolan, Campbell and Flemming voted “yes” on the motion.
Gertner said the final specifications of the path could be subject to change by the DEP and by the Township Council, if the governing body accepts the plan to take ownership of the path.