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Despite heavy objections from numerous neighbors, the Jackson Township Council tonight unanimously voted on final reading to approve Mayor Reina's land swap with Mordechai Eichorn.

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 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.

Subsequently, 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."

The Council has already voted on first reading to introduce the Ordinance which would approve the land swap. They are scheduled to hold a public hearing and final vote on the matter at tonight's meeting which begins at 7:30pm at Town Hall.

Numerous White Street residents who would be the neighbors of these new schools, spoke up in fierce opposition to the land swap, citing the traffic safety concerns due to the narrow roads and lack of sidewalks. Neighbors also highlighted that there is no sewer in the area and planning schools for 1,000 students only on septic tanks does not sound like smart planning.

A number of residents suggested that Township officials look into creating a school zone in area which is appropriately "serviceable" with wider roads and utilities.

One neighbor enthusiastically exclaimed "I never knew that Orthodox Jewish residents are opposed to schools!"

Before voting, council members admitted that "this land swap is a very difficult issue for us, however, the numerous lawsuits that have been served against us have now required us to permit additional schools."

The council members also urged residents to "speak to Bellevue Estates and ask them to work on the roadway improvements that they discussed tonight," and to "also show up and speak up at their future land use board meetings."

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