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On the Jackson Township Council's meeting agenda for this Tuesday night is an Ordinance to establish an Open Space Committee.

This Committee was a campaign promise made by Mayor Mike Reina, in order to curb over development.

Reina realized that his efforts to buy land once it landed in the hands of developers was quite difficult as developers often overpay for the value of the land, and the Township is unable to pay above the appraisal amount to buy the land.

To combat this issue, during his campaign, Reina stressed "there is only one lawsuit proof way to stop development in its tracks and that is if we can get the land before the developers do... We will form an Open Space Committee to include a representative from the Administration, Council and members of the public. The sole responsibility of the Committee will be to identify large parcels of land for acquisition BEFORE developers even know that they exist."

Reina also added "The current Jackson Township Council's insistence on buying only open space that it can pay cash for prevents us from competing against big developers.  There are WAY too many missed opportunities to ever honor the spirit of the agreement that the Township made when it asked residents for an Open Space Trust Fund tax.

"Our plan will utilize our bonding authority to allow minimal upfront expenditures and maximize the nearly $2 million collected annually through the Township's open space tax.  By doing so we increase our buying power 10X-20X which will allow us to compete with developers."

Reina has now drafted an Ordinance establishing the Open Space Committee. The Township Council has placed the Ordinance for first reading on their agenda, signaling they are endorsing the plan.

The Committee will be comprised of 9 members, to be appointed annually to a term of one year:
• one member of the Township Council, appointed by the Township Council
• one member of the Administration, appointed by the Mayor
• The Mayor or a Mayor's representative
• Six citizens of Jackson Township appointed by the Mayor

The Duties and Responsibilities of the Committee will include locating the properties and recommending them to the Township Administration for acquisition. No member of the Committee is permitted to contact a property owner as to the potential purchase of said property without written approval of the Township's Business Administration.

Tuesday's vote on the Ordinance will be on first reading. A final reading will take place at a future Council meeting.

It appears, however, that the Council is pushing back against Reina's proposal for a land swap.

Back in October, as previously reported here on FAA News, the Jackson Planning Board heard testimony on a proposal an application submitted by Bellevue Estates, LLC, which is owned by Lakewood resident Mordechai Eichorn, to build 4 schools on a 30-acre parcel of land at 443 Leesville Road between Burke and Diamond Road.

Thereafter, as previously reported here on FAA News, Mayor Reina broke the news just a week ago that in order "to protect existing neighborhoods within Jackson Township and to protect and honor the rights of all Jackson residents", he "successfully negotiated to acquire Eichorn's farm [to keep it for open space]".

At a "town hall" Reina subsequently hosted for residents in the Leesville area, he clarified that the acquisition would be in the form of a land swap for Township owned land near the Lakewood Cross Street border, and that the swap requires and awaits approval from the Township Council.

Just days ago, Mayor Reina announced that "negotiations between Jackson Township and Bellevue Estates regarding a land swap agreement have concluded successfully and an ordinance authorizing the same has been prepared and presented to the Jackson Township Council for introduction."

“Back in October I announced that the Township had reached an agreement in principle to swap equal valued properties with the developer of Bellevue Estates.  This ordinance authorizes that land swap and I look forward to signing it once Council approves it” said Mayor Reina.

For now, at least, it appears that the Township Council, led by Council President (and adversary to Reina) Martin Flemming, is pushing back against the land swap proposal as they have not placed the proposed Ordinance on Tuesday night's agenda.

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