JACKSON – When it meets on Dec. 2, the Jackson Planning Board will continue to hear testimony on an applicant’s plan to build 459 residential units and a house of worship on South Hope Chapel Road (Route 547) near Jackson’s border with Manchester Township.
Jackson Trails, LLC, has applied for major subdivision and major site plan approval to construct 367 single-family market rate homes, 92 affordable housing units in multiple buildings and a house of worship on a 130-acre tract.
Attorney Salvatore Alfieri, planner Ian Borden and engineer Graham MacFarlane represented the applicant at the board’s Aug. 19 meeting.
During his testimony before the board, Borden said the property on South Hope Chapel Road is in Jackson’s Regional Growth Residential zone. He presented information in response to questions that had been raised by the board’s engineer and planner.
“In addition, we are not oblivious to online comments and I also tried to prepare my testimony in a manner to answer questions that were being raised by the public in social media forums,” Borden said.
He said Jackson Trails would be served by public water.
“The project proposes 367-single family lots, each with a minimum area of 7,500 square feet (less than a quarter-acre). There are 92 affordable housing units in buildings that have no more than four units. (This works out) to 3.6 dwelling units per acre where 4.5 dwelling units per acre is permitted,” Borden said.
He said the proposed house of worship is a conditional use that is permitted in the zone.
“The house of worship is a two-story building with a full basement. Three sanctuaries are proposed, with a total area of 9,779 square feet. We are providing 208 parking spaces where 195 parking spaces are required,” Borden said, adding the house of worship is proposed to be constructed on a 4.5-acre lot.
Borden put on the record that his firm, Professional Design Services, represents Earle Asphalt, which owns a neighboring property containing solar energy panels and where other uses have been permitted.
He said in 2014, Earle Asphalt established a Classification Exception Area (CEA).
“The CEA is an institutional control done in accordance with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) where there is ground water contamination. Where there is ground water contamination and it is anticipated by the DEP the contamination will attenuate itself over time through dilution … in other words treatment is not required,” Borden said
The property “adjoins (the Jackson Trails) site. One monitoring well is very close to our property. The CEA requires that there be controls on structures within 100 feet,” he said. “Three of (Jackson Trails’) proposed houses would require a vapor mitigation system.”
Planning Board member Jeffrey Riker, who also serves on the Jackson Environmental Commission, said Borden did not discuss the CEA when he appeared before the commission in July.
“That was never part of the conversation. Never did we discuss the potential impact of Earle Asphalt with the (Jackson Trails) residential development. Why am I finding out about this tonight?” Riker said.
Borden said he was not aware of the CEA when he met with the environmental commission.
Riker responded, saying, “Before we go any further with the environmental commission, I want to see the notes, the dates, the who, the when; everything that proves to me you indeed went out and traversed that property and actually looked at it. Because on my side, we have monitoring wells that were never discussed and you testified a month ago. What else is out there?”
Township Manager Terence Wall, who sits on the Planning Board, expressed concern that the plan for Jackson Trails did not show a recreational area in the proposed development.
“Where do the children play?” Wall asked.
The applicant’s representatives said there is a play area at the proposed house of worship.
MacFarlane said youngsters could also play in their yard.
Wall said the average family size is 3.5, which would mean about 1,500 residents.
“The house of worship is mostly a parking lot. From a practical standpoint, where are the children playing here? As far as in the community?” he asked.
Board member Robert Hudak asked about the size of the homes’ yards and said, “You can’t even play baseball or football in this development. You said there are recreation facilities at the house of worship, (but) what if some of the people don’t worship there?”
During public comment, Gary Fish said that in May, he had animal control officers at his property after his wife saw a 4-foot-long snake.
“Animal control came out and identified the snake as a pine snake. I back right into this (Jackson Trails) property, so I am not sure what study was done to say there are no species there that may be harmed. I would like to know how this study was done,” Fish said.
“The study for a pine snake in particular is done by what they call bird fence trapping. You set up bird fence lines and trap the snakes over several months and catalog any snakes you find. No harm is done to snakes that are captured. Ultimately, the jurisdiction for that species would rest with the Pinelands Commission,” Borden said.
Joyce Oberhofer expressed concern about plant species on the site, saying, “You mentioned endangered species regarding animals; when I looked at the grassland habitat there is also state threatened Level 3 and state endangered Level 4 (species) on that property. Was any study done for the plant life on the property?”
Borden said no endangered species were identified.
Jason Graves asked if all 92 of the planned affordable housing units would have three bedrooms.
Borden said 20 affordable housing units would have three bedrooms and 72 affordable housing units would have two bedrooms.
Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.
Chris Aldrich asked where children who live in Jackson Trails would attend school.
Borden said he believes children of high school age would be districted to attend Jackson Liberty High School, but he said schools were not a part of the application before the board.
Aldrich asked when the study regarding the pine snake was completed and Borden said it was done in 2005 by a previous applicant.
The Jackson Trails application was carried to Dec. 2. Board members said the next meeting would be held at a larger venue than the municipal building, given the number of people who attended the Aug. 19 meeting to hear details of the application.