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Jackson council adopts ordinances to purchase, preserve two parcels

JACKSON — The members of the Jackson Township Council have adopted two ordinances that will authorize the municipality’s acquisition of vacant properties and prevent the development of those parcels.

During a meeting on Oct. 11, council members adopted ordinances No. 24-22 and No. 25-22.

Township Council President Martin Flemming, Vice President Andrew Kern, Councilman Nino Borrelli, Councilman Stephen M. Chisholm Jr. and Councilwoman Samara O’Neill voted “yes” on separate motions to adopt each ordinance.

Ordinance No. 24-22 authorizes the acquisition of 43 vacant acres along East Veterans Highway through negotiation, purchase or eminent domain (condemnation).

According to the text of the ordinance, the township believes it “must acquire” the property which is currently in private ownership by Robert K. Boehm of Howell.

No one from the public commented on Ordinance No. 24-22 when given the opportunity to do so and the legislation was subsequently adopted by the council members.

Ordinance No. 25-22 authorizes the acquisition of 11.31 vacant acres along Frank Applegate Road from County Line Construction Inc. at a cost of $1.8 million.

Municipal officials said the funding that is needed to purchase the property is available in Jackson’s open space trust fund. The open space trust fund is supported by the annual collection of an open space tax from the township’s property owners.

Kern said officials are not issuing bonds for the purchase of the open space parcel on Frank Applegate Road because of a significant increase in the cost of bonding.

The council vice president said the interest rate on bonds in January was 1.5% and he said the interest rate on bonds is now 267% higher than it was in the first month of 2022.

During the public hearing on ordinance No. 25-22, resident Sheldon Hofstein addressed the council’s proposal to purchase the property on Frank Applegate Road. He said, “hopefully the council will vote no.”

“Why is one-third of our open space fund being used to eliminated eight (approved) homes? The only winner will be the builder,” Hofstein said.

When ordinance No. 25-22 was introduced by the council on Sept. 27, Hofstein said the R-3 residential zoning on the property would have permitted the construction of three homes on the site before the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a variance to a developer who now has the right to build eight homes on the property.

“You are giving the owner (of the property) $1.8 million for a $212,000 investment in 2018. It would be better to let the owner build the eight homes and let the real estate market set his profit,” Hofstein said at the time.

Also speaking during the Oct. 11 public hearing on ordinance No. 25-22 was Richard Egan, who said, “This stinks. (The township is paying) $1.8 million for 11 acres 27 days before an election just so you can say you did something.”

Flemming is running for mayor and Kern and O’Neill are running for seats on the Township Council in the upcoming general election, for which voting is already underway. The three municipal officials are running as a team.

In response to the comments made by Hofstein and Egan, Flemming said, “It’s not the number of homes (that will not be built). We look for willing partners (to sell their land). We cannot buy property for over the appraised amount.”

Regarding the use of the open space trust fund to make a land purchase, Flemming said, “We have the money. (The trust fund) is replenished every year.”

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