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Jackson Township's Planning Board tonight approved a 160 children capacity child care center on Bennetts Mills Road at Johnson Lane.

The site was previously proposed for both a child care center and medical center, however, the medical use has been eliminated.

Additionally, the child care center was previously proposed with a capacity of 450 children. However, after a previous public hearing on the application brought out heavy opposition from numerous neighbors, the project was reduced significantly to only a one story, 18,480 sq feet, building with a capacity of 160 children.

The project was originally planned to include an after school program that would bring additional children to the site in the afternoon. Due to backlash from the neighbors who were concerned regarding the additional traffic this would cause, this plan was eliminated.

The application was submitted by Bennetts Mills Realty, LLC. The site location is at 28 Johnson Lane and 334 Bennetts Mills Road.

The application was represented by Attorney Salvatore Alfieri, Esq. and Engineer Graham MacFarlane of PDS Engineering.

The Site Plan depicts a parking lot with 48 parking spaces.

An outside play area, with lawn recreational equipment, is also proposed.

The applicant sought a waiver from providing a sidewalk along Bennetts Mills Road.

Mr. MacFarlane told the Board that they do not yet have an operator lined up. The center will require a state license. Once they ascertain their future operator they will work on obtaining a state license.

Mr. MacFarlane added that the project requires a Letter Of Interpretation from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; an application for same has already been submitted and it remains pending.

A major contention was regarding a proposed driveway on Johnson Lane. Ultimately, the Board stipulated that access to Johnson Lane be gated and permitted for emergency vehicles.

Numerous neighbors opposed the application saying that this is a "very residential area" and a  child care center this size, especially with drop offs so early in the morning, would bring extra noise and traffic to the area. The Board responded that this is a conditionally permitted use in the zoning district and they comply with the conditional use and they are not seeking any variances.

Additionally, frum neighbors suggested to the Board that they clarify the scope of the intended use and hours of use of the building, noting that our child care centers tend to be used "in many different ways over many different hours including off school hours."

The neighbors implored the applicant to consider selling the property so it could instead be preserved for open space, and to relocate the child care center to a different site.

Neighbors also requested a left turning lane into the site. John Rea, the applicant's traffic expert, responded that Bennetts Mills Road is under Ocean County jurisdiction and the Ocean County Planning Board did not require them to provide a left turning lane.

One neighbor spoke in strong opposition and refused to stop speaking when his time was up. He also used vulgar language. He was ultimately escorted out by police officers.

Watch video below:

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