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Following a major court settlement, including a $700,000 payment, Jackson Township's Planning Board on Monday night granted Final approval to Mordy Eichorn's Jackson Trails development.

Back in August 2018, Lakewood developer Mordechai Eichorn applied to Jackson Township's Planning Board seeking conditional use approval, preliminary and final major subdivision approval, and preliminary and final major site plan approval for a residential housing development to be known as Jackson Trails.

The fully conforming application included 367 single-family homes and 92 multi-family units, and a house of worship on a site located off South Hope Chapel Road.

Ultimately, after hearing numerous public hearings on the application, - which were well attended by residents opposed to the application - on October 7, 2019 the Board denied the application by virtue of a 4-4 vote on the application.

Mr. Eichorn then submitted a Motion for Reconsideration to the Board. On December 2, 2019 the Board failed to act on this motion and instead issued a written resolution memorializing its October 7, 2019 decision to deny the Application.

In response, on February 3, 2020, Mr. Eichorn filed a complaint in Federal Court. The lawsuit asserted claims against the Township and Board for violations of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution; the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), and New Jersey law, arising from the Planning Board’s denial of the Application.

On October 9, 2020, the Court dismissed a portion of the complaint.

Finally, in March 2022, after 2 years of heavy litigation, the Township finally settled with Mr. Eichorn.

The settlement states that while the Township "denies all liability for the claims asserted by Plaintiffs," at the same time, "the Parties have determined to resolve all aspects of this litigation and agree that all claims should be resolved amicably and without protracted, expensive and unnecessary litigation; and the Parties agree that the Application heard by the Planning Board was a fully complying application for conditional use approval, preliminary and final major subdivision approval, and preliminary and final major site plan approval for the use of the Property pursuant to the Township Code."

In addition to approving the Jackson Trails application, the settlement agreement also provided that the Township would pay Mr. Eichorn a settlement payment of $700,000 inclusive of attorney’s fees and costs, and that the Township would waive construction permit fees of up to $1,500,000 and shall take all reasonable and necessary steps to expedite the review, approval and/or inspection of the Development so as not to delay the construction of the Development.

As water main extensions are costly in this area, the settlement included a clause that Plaintiffs shall have the exclusive right to install private wells in the Development, in lieu of connection to the public water system.

Finally, the settlement agreement includes a clause that Plaintiffs shall be permitted to construct a front porch and steps on each single family home within the front yard setback not to exceed 120 square feet. Said front porch and steps may intrude into the front yard setback without each individual lot required to secure a bulk variance.

As part of the settlement agreement, the Township desired that the development should include 4 additional affordable units. Mr. Eichorn agreed to this stipulation. To effectuate this clause, the Township agreed to amend their zoning ordinance to modify the size of affordable housing permitted in this zoning district.

In Jackson Township, amending such an Ordinance requires the Township to provide the Pinelands Commission with the Ordinance and permit them a certain timeframe for review and objection, if any.

In terms of the actual development, the settlement agreement included a clause that the applicant would be permitted to return to the Planning Board for an amended approval, to be known as Schedule B, which would permit for residential housing consisting of 386 single-family homes (with basement apartments), 96 multi-family units, a house of worship and all related improvements.

This return to the Planning Board, which is known as a Whispering Woods hearing, was to occur within 30 days of the expiration of the appeal period to challenge the Ordinance adoption or Certification of the Ordinance by the Pinelands Commission, whichever last occurs.

This Whispering Woods hearing is what the Planning Board conducted on Monday night.

As the applicant and the Board's professionals testified that the final plan presented to the Board complies with both the Settlement Agreement and the amended zoning ordinances for the RG-3 zoning district, the Board unanimously granted final approval for the project.

Jackson Trails was represented by Attorney Donna Jennings and Engineer Ian Borden.

Mr. Borden testified to the Board that although the settlement does expressly include a clause that they can install private wells in lieu of extending water main, they are still working with the Jackson Township MUA and the Manchester Township MUA on a plan which includes 3 miles of water main extension in Jackson and 1 mile of extension in Manchester.

Unlike the 2019 public hearings, no members of the public spoke up at this Whispering Woods hearing.

Per the plan documents submitted to the Board, the Minimum Lot Area for each Single Family Home will be 7,500 sq feet.

Construction phasing will be as follows:

Phase I 97 market rate homes

Phase II 95 market rate homes + 1 affordable housing building of 12 units

Phase III 97 market rate homes + 2 affordable housing buildings of 24 units total (48 units in total)

Phase IV 97 market rate homes + 2 affordable housing buildings of 24 units total (96 units in total)

The affordable units will include 19 efficiency units, 30 two bedroom units and 66 three bedroom units.

The 2-story House of Worship will include 4,943 sq ft of floor area in the main sanctuary, as well as two additional sanctuaries with 2,418 sq ft of floor area in each. This is a total of 9,779 sq feet of floor area. Jackson Township's zoning ordinances require 1 parking space per 50 sq feet of floor area of "main congregant area," which comes to 195 parking spaces. This application will provide a total of 205 parking spaces for the House of Worship.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sounds like a win/win for everyone. We need more housing as fast as we can produce it. It will take generations before we build enough homes to rectify the housing crisis being suffered in the Tri State area. Many years ago it was considered affordable if ones rent or cost of housing equalled one weeks earnings. Many now pay significantly more than that.