Join Our Telegram Channel


The Jackson Township Clerk has refused requests to release the appraisals which Township officials claim they have which purport to show that the lots that the Township swapped with Lakewood developer Mordechai Eichorn was worth the same as his lots, FAA News has shockingly learned.

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."

At the Township Council's public hearing on the adoption of the land swap ordinance, 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!"

Oddly, the council members responded simply by urging 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."

Subsequently, as the news was first broken here on FAA News, residents who are opposed to the swap, represented by Attorney Jan Meyer Esq., filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the proposal.

The 4-count lawsuit names as Defendants the Township Council, Mayor Reina, and Bellevue Estates, and contains an allegation that the land swap discriminates against their "Jewish neighborhood."

According to the suit:

Pursuant to State Statute, a land swap is legal if - and only if - the municipality receives land of at least value equal to or exceeding the value of the municipal land in the current tax year, as well as value exceeding the value of the municipal land in the year it was acquired.

The Ordinances contain a bare recitation, without support, that "the Township has determined that the properties are of substantially equal value."

Upon information and belief, at no point was there any testimony or hearing regarding the value of the two properties.

The proposed Contract of Sale, which was attached to the Ordinance, includes a statement that an appraisal was performed by the Township Appraiser, who determined that the Subject Property is valued at $4.1 million, and the Municipal Lands were valued at $4.4 million, but that certain deductions must be made from the value of the Municipal Lands, such that the value of the two lands were equal.

Upon information and belief, the appraisal reports were not attached to the Ordinance, nor were they made available to the public.

Upon information and belief, the appraisal reports dramatically understand the value of the Municipal Lands, and/or overstate the value of the Subject Property.

Further, upon information and belief, the Ordinances do not make any findings as to the valuation of the Municipal Lands in the year they were acquired, as required by statue.

In the First Count, the lawsuit alleges that the adoption of the Ordinances was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, as the Ordinances do not adhere to Statue.

In the Second Count, the lawsuit asserts that under the Local Government Ethics Law, Mayor Reina should have recused himself from the matter as, "upon information and belief he has a close, personal relationship with the principal of Bellevue Estates."

In the Third Count, the lawsuit alleges charges under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination:

Upon information and belief, the Township of Jackson has a long history of discrimination against Jewish people, and in particular, Jewish schools.

In fact, the Township is a party to a Consent Order with the U.S. Department of Justice. In said action, the Department of Justice alleged, inter alia, that the Township applied zoning ordinances that intentionally target religious schools... so that it will be impossible or nearly impossible for religious schools... to operate in the Township," in essence, to discriminate and target persons of Orthodox Jewish faith.

In the course of seeking to settle said action, the Township agreed to a settlement that permitted schools, including religious schools, in many areas of the Township.

Upon information and belief, the areas around the Subject Property is not an area where many Orthodox Jews reside.

Upon information and belief, the areas around the Municipal Lands are heavily concentrated with Orthodox Jews.

Upon information and belief, the Municipal Defendants adopted the exchange of lands at issue in this matter for the improper purpose of avoiding the construction of Orthodox Jews do not presently reside.

Upon information and belief, the Municipal Defendants adopted the exchange of lands at issue in this matter for the improper purpose of seeking to avoid Orthodox Jews spreading to live in new areas of Jackson.

The adoption of the exchange of lands for such improper purpose violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

The Plaintiffs protect the interest of the protected class of Orthodox Jews.

In the Fourth Count, the lawsuit alleges that the adoption of the Ordinances constitute a deprivation of the Plaintiffs federally protected rights, including inter alia, the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process clauses of the Federal Constitution.

Since the filing of the lawsuit, requests have been made to the Township Clerk to release a key document - the appraisal which State Statute requires the Township to obtain in order to ensure that the value of the lands equal and therefore eligible for a land swap.

Shockingly, the Township Clerk has refused this basic request!

Does someone have something nefarious to hide??

If indeed, the Township did obtain a proper appraisal, and the lands are of equal value, then why are they refusing to release the key document??

To join a FAA WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA WhatsApp Status, click here.

No comments: