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Jackson zoners approve two components of Swanborne application

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JACKSON — The members of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment have approved two parts of the Swanborne, LLC, application and will consider the third and final component of the application during a meeting in the municipal building on Jan. 18.

The board’s action to approve two portions of the plan occurred during a Dec. 7 meeting after the attorney who represents Swanborne asked the board members to reconsider their previous denial of preliminary and final major subdivision approval for the application.

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The Swanborne application proposed to subdivide a 159-acre property that is bounded by East Veterans Highway (Route 528), South Hope Chapel Road (Route 547) and Whitesville Road (Route 527) to permit the construction of an inclusionary residential development with 253 units, including 205 single-family market rate homes; a lot for the construction of six multi-family buildings containing 48 residential units affordable to very low, low and moderate income families and individuals; and a lot for the construction of a two-story house of worship with 8,226 square feet of building area and parking areas.

The property is in Jackson’s Regional Growth 2 zone and the proposed uses are conditionally permitted in the RG-2 zone, according to attorney John A. Giunco, who represents the applicant.

According to a legal notice published by Giunco prior to the Dec. 7 meeting, on Oct. 5, the zoning board members voted on and failed to approve the preliminary subdivision portion of the Swanborne application, which resulted in a technical denial of the entire application.

“Nonetheless, there is clear evidence on the record that at the Oct. 5 hearing, the board was mistaken as to which portion of the application was being voted on. As such, the applicant is entitled to seek reconsideration by the board as a result of this mistake,” Giunco wrote in the legal notice.

The applicant’s request for reconsideration was the topic of discussion and consideration when the zoning board convened on Dec. 7.

During his remarks, Giunco contended that during the Oct. 5 meeting, the zoning board “made mistakes of law and fact. … There was confusion on what was being voted on and how it was being voted.”

Giunco discussed each aspect of the application: the subdivision of the property, which he said a New Jersey statute says “shall be approved” and should stand on its own; the site plan for the affordable housing in the development; and the site plan for the proposed house of worship, which includes parking in a front yard.

“I would request the board to reconsider that application … for a practical reason … the advancement of Jackson’s affordable housing plan for approval,” he said.

Giunco told the board members his requests were being made to avoid what he said could be 24 to 30 months of costly litigation if his client went to court to overturn what turned out to be an inappropriate denial of the Swanborne application.

The applicant was seeking conditional use variance relief to permit the affordable housing units in attached dwellings with eight units per building, where a Jackson ordinance permits attached dwellings with a maximum of four units per building.

During public comment, resident Randolph Kubacz of South Hope Chapel Road asked if an environmental impact statement had been conducted on the property. He said the proposed residential development would be congested and that traffic in the area would also be congested.

Kubacz asked the board members to deny the application again as they had done in October.

During a discussion by board members, James Hurley said he agreed in part with Giunco’s argument and disagreed in part. He said he wants a better site plan for the proposed house of worship.

Lynne Bradley, the board’s vice chairwoman, said, “I have major issues with the traffic,” over which she said Jackson has no control, and added, “I am not ready to address the house of worship.”

Board member Carl Book Jr. said the Swanborne discussion “was a complicated application.”

In the first order of business following the discussion, Book made a motion to grant reconsideration of the previous denial of the subdivision of the property.

On that motion, Book, Hurley, Bradley, Chairman Scott Najarian and Joseph Riccardi voted “yes.” Board member John Spalthoff voted “no.” The 5-1 vote granted the reconsideration motion that had been filed by the applicant.

With that issue settled, a motion was made to grant preliminary and final major subdivision approval to create the lots on which the residences would be constructed.

Book, Hurley, Bradley, Najarian and Riccardi voted “yes.” Spalthoff voted “no.” The 5-1 vote granted the subdivision approval.

Finally, a motion was made to grant preliminary and final major site plan approval for the multi-family affordable housing with eight units per building.

Book, Hurley, Bradley, Najarian and Riccardi voted “yes.” Spalthoff voted “no.” The 5-1 vote granted the site plan approval.

Issues regarding the Swanborne, LLC, house of worship remained unresolved. Giunco said the applicant would address those issues more thoroughly during the Jan. 18 zoning board meeting.

“We have heard the board’s concerns” regarding the house of worship, the attorney said.

Jackson’s zoning board meetings are live-streamed on YouTube.

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