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Local developers and their attorneys are frustrating the members of the Jackson Township Planning Board.

At their recent public hearing, Board members spoke up regarding these frustrations, highlighting how Attorney Donna Jennings continuously threatens the Board that they aren't giving her clients their "due process" when they need to carry their applications due to lack of time, yet, she also fully expects the Board to kindly reschedule when she can't attend hearings.

Board Chairman Tzvi Herman agreed, saying, "applicants will be applicants. It's our job to give them push back!"

The issue began when all of the applications of the Board's public hearing agenda needed to be carried, leading to the Board members coming out for nothing.

All of the applications were represented by Attorney Alfieri Salvatore.

One application borders Lakewood Township. The Municipal Land Use Law requires applications that adjoin other municipalities to send notice to the Clerk of the other municipality. In this case, the applicant failed to send such notice, leading the Board to lack jurisdiction to hear the application.

A second application appears to utilize property next to the main site. This is only permitted with approval from that property owner. In this case, the applicant failed to submit such approval, also leading the Board to lack jurisdiction to hear the application.

Mr. Salvatore only notified the Board the day of the public hearing that the applications couldn't be heard that night.

Vice Chair Dr. Michele Campbell voiced frustration, noting that neighbors of the applications came out tonight, all for nought. She asked how things get done better in the future.

Board Engineer Doug Klee explained that applicants are Statutorily required to send notices to the neighboring property owners only 10 days in advance of the public hearing. These notices are sent by Certified Mail with Return Receipt. Therefore, the applicant only gets them back 4 days later. At that point, they review them to ensure that everyone who was required to receive notice did indeed receive notice. If there are any notice issues, then they notify the Board that the application needs to be adjourned.

Mr. Klee suggested that perhaps the Board could make their own requirements that more advance notice is required. That will give the applicants more time to be able to notify the Board when applications need to be adjourned.

Board Chairman Tzvi Herman liked this idea, suggesting that the Board require 20 days notice.

Dr. Campbell added that perhaps more applications get placed on the agenda; in this case, if the Board lacks time to hear them, they will adjourn them and if other applications need to get adjourned then the "additional applications" will get heard instead.

Board Attorney Bobby Shea answered both suggestions. He stated that these kinds of fixes have been on his "holiday wish list" for years. Unfortunately, however, State Law prohibits municipalities from requiring more than the 10 days that State Law already requires.

Mr. Shea added that if they "fix" their problem of having nothing to do one night by adding more applications to the agenda then the neighbors of the last applications will get upset when they learn they came out for nothing because the application is getting carried anyways.

At this point, the Board and their professionals started voicing other frustrations with applicants and their professionals.

Mr. Klee complained that developers are "bringing in sloppy applications that aren't ready for the Board's review. We shouldn't need to mop up their plans."

Chairman Herman added that developers are "dropping down amended plans and exhibits the day of the meeting, without our professionals having had sufficient advance time to review them."

Board Member Jeffrey Riker complained that "Attorney Donna Jennings, make threats about us not giving her clients sufficient due process when we need to reschedule their applications. Yet, she also expected us to work around her schedule when she ran off to vacation in Greece."

"I'll take grief from the public, but not from the attorneys who earn $300 an hour and have a staff, which we do not have," stated Mr. Riker.

Mr. Shea agreed, saying, "I don't like any threats that are made to the Board. We should not be beholden to threats simply because they are threats."

Chairman Herman echoed his words, saying, "applicants will do what they will do. It's our job to give them push back."

Mr. Riker also complained that some developers send the wrong plans to the fire official (meaning that when they show the Board the approval from the fire official, the approval is worthless as it's not on the correct design plan).

Board member Joseph Sullivan complained that a number of applications presented to the Board were "sloppy." He stated that he used to be on the Zoning Board and over there he didn't see such sloppy applications as he sees at the Planning Board.

Regarding the instant fiasco, Mr. Riker stated that "Mr. Salvatore is going to argue that we need to squeeze him in despite that we needed to push this off. I want him to go to the back of the list, not get squeezed in to an already full agenda."

Mr. Shea suggested that the Board enact guidance that they will only spend one hour on each application and then carry to another night if additional time is needed. That will give the Board the opportunity to at least open multiple applications each night.

Mr. Shea added that the Board members should consider all the concerns and suggestions brought up tonight, and put a list together that they can discuss more formally at the upcoming reorganization meeting. At that point, the Board could send a formal request to the Council to amend the land use ordinances and application check lists accordingly.

Board member Mordy Burnstein, who sits on the Township Council and serves as the Council's liaison to the Planning Board stated, "I'm sure Council will be very receptive to whatever we present to them."

(FAA News notes that, as previously reported here on FAA News, lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation extending the time required for public notice of land use applications to 21 days. The bill cleared the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, however, it has not advanced since then.)

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Anonymous said...

Donna Jennings needs some direction in life.She was in my Seton Hall Law class back in 1992.She always had that its all about me attitude.Real don't know how she got a job at Wilentz,Goldmen,and Spitzer it such a prestige law firm.

Anonymous said...

Donna Jennings is extremely rude with her curt responses and contiuously interrupts and talks over other speakers. She needs to calm down and be more professional. Threatening the board needs to stop. That's bullying and needs to step up and not disgrace her profession.