JACKSON PLANNING BOARD TO HEAR SCHOOL APPLICATION

Jackson Township residents' long-awaited dream of getting their own yeshivos built locally without needing to deal with the Lakewood traffic is finally one major step closer, at the Township's Planning Board is finally scheduled at their next meeting on Monday, October 3rd to hear an application for 3 elementary schools, 1 high school and an ancillary gymnasium.


The project property is located at a 30-acre parcel of land at 443 Leesville Road between Burke and Diamond Road.


The applicant is Bellevue Estates, LLC which is owned by Lakewood resident Mordechai Eichorn.


Mr. Eichorn purchased this land in November 2021 for $1.5 million, public records show.


The application seeks Preliminary and Final Major Subdivision to create 4 separate lots for the 4 separate schools, and Preliminary and Final Major Site Plan Approval for the schools and gymnasium building.


At this time the application is being submitted as fully conforming with no variances. The legal notice does however include a "catch all" which requests "such other relief, as may be required, including any variances, exceptions or waivers deemed necessary by the Planning Board or its professionals during review of the application."


There has been a lot of drama behind yeshivos in Jackson in general, and this school application specifically.


In March 2017, to curb the growth of the growing Orthodox Jewish community, the Jackson Township Council adopted ordinances which bans new private schools in virtually the entire town, and dormitories in the entire town.


Saying that these ordinances were discriminatory, Agudath Israel filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn them.


In May 2021, Agudath Israel received a major victory in the four-year legal battle when a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against Jackson's "discriminatory and unconstitutional ordinances banning of yeshivos, dormitories, and interpretation of zoning laws prohibiting eruvin today." 

While a final ruling on the merits awaits, the receipt of a preliminary injunction is a strong statement by the court, considered an extraordinary form of relief in the legal system, and this preliminary injunction paved the way for yeshivos to now apply for Township Planning Board approval.


In May 2022, the Township Planning Board voted unanimously to grant preliminary major site plan approval for construction of three Yeshiva schools (two two-story elementary schools and one two-story high school) on a 13.5-acre tract at 31 Leesville Road. That application was filed by Lees Village, LLC, which is also owned by Mr. Eichorn.


The applicant was initially seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval from the board, however, his attorney Donna Jennings agreed with a request by the board to only seek preliminary approval at this time and to return at a later date to seek final approval when more specific information regarding the buildings’ tenants is expected to be available.


During the public hearing, Traffic Engineer John Rea reviewed plans for Leesville Road, which is under the jurisdiction of Ocean County and said Leesville Road is proposed to be widened with turning lanes from both directions of Leesville Road into the school property, and the turning lanes will allow thru traffic to continue to flow.


Since that Board approval, Mr. Eichorn submitted an application to the Planning Board for this new school application which is also on Leesville Road, just about 2 miles away from the first school approval.


According to an Asbury Park Press report, "the idea of four additional schools on an even smaller piece of property a few miles away incensed neighbors, so Council President Martin Flemming, who sits on the planning board, suggested Eichorn find a new plan for the property – and suggested housing as a possible solution."


The township suggested 60 houses, including 12 affordable housing units. Eichorn demurred, concerned that “apartment buildings in a zone with million-dollar homes is not proper planning", and compromised with a plan for 48 houses with no affordable housing units.


As the Township zoning ordinances only permit 10 homes on 3-acre each lots, the proposal to build 48 homes primarily on lots of less than a half-acre each required a Use of Density variance from the Township Zoning Board, and a new application was submitted to the Zoning Board while the Planning Board application for the schools was tabled.


At the conclusion of a four-hour meeting on August 3rd, five members of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment voted to deny the Density Variance application.


Following this denial, which, if approved, would have been a financial compromise on Mr. Eichorn's part, Eichorn is now moving forward with his original application which is now scheduled to be presented to the Planning Board on October 3rd at 7:30pm in the Main Meeting Room at the Jackson Township Municipal Building, at 95 West Veterans Highway. The meeting will be open to the public and members of the public may appear in person or by an attorney and present any comments and/or objections to the relief sought.


Copies of the application, plans and other supporting documents are on file in the office of the Jackson Township Planning Board at the Jackson Township Municipal Building, located at 65 Don Connor Boulevard Jackson, and are available there for inspection Monday through Friday, between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm or online at https://www.jacksontwpnj.net/239/Planning-Board.


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1 comment:

  1. This board now includes Mordechai Burnstein and Tzvi Herman who is an alternate member.

    ReplyDelete