The following article was written by Randy Bergmann, a former editor at the Asbury Park Press and now independent journalist, originally published on his Facebook Page and republished with permission. Randy Bergmann has no affiliation to Shore News Network.
JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – The folly of the Jackson Planning Board in recent months is no more in evidence than its willingness to roll over for the developer of the sprawling, $500 million Adventure Crossing project. The first of three phases has already been approved with barely a whimper from the board. The developer clear-cut 75 acres of forested areas to make way for a 120,000-square-foot indoor sports dome, eight outdoor sports fields, a 100,000-square-foot indoor recreational building with a trampoline park, indoor go-kart racing, an area for video game competitions, eight restaurants – six of them fast-food – and two hotels. The project also will include 500 apartments, 90 of which will be affordable.
On Monday night (7:30 p.m. on Zoom), the developer will be seeking final site plan approval for the second phase of the project, which will allow the clear-cutting of another 73 acres of trees and the construction of two massive warehouses that will generate 400 truck trips a day, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
If approved, it will wreak environmental havoc, destroy the quality of life for nearby homeowners and add to the traffic nightmares on Route 537, the I-195 ramps and Anderson Road. The application must be rejected.
Here are 10 questions planning board members need to have satisfactorily answered before casting their vote:
- Has every Planning Board member and the board’s hired professionals walked the site and the neighborhoods adjacent to it, some of which are within 100 feet of the warehouses? If not, they should abstain from voting on the application.
- Will the board insist, as it should, that the traffic study, which was confined only to Pine Street – the only entrance and exit to the megadevelopment -– be expanded to include the traffic and public safety impact on Anderson Road, the Route 195 interchange and traffic flow east of Adventure Crossing up to the Route 571 intersection. The study also should take into account a second mega sports complex, Trophy Park, planned for west of Great Adventure on Route 537.
- Will the board insist, as it should, that the developer absorb all the costs for off-site improvements necessitated by the development?
- Could the township withstand a potential legal challenge to the 2019 zoning change that allowed warehouses anywhere on the Adventure Crossing site?
- Will the board insist, as it should, that no clear-cutting of the trees in Phase II take place until all of the environmental issues cited by the Department of Environmental Protection have been satisfactorily resolved and appropriate traffic studies have been conducted?
- What impact will this massive project, which is to include 500 apartments in the third phase, have on the need for public services – police, fire, first aid, code enforcement, schools, etc.? Who will absorb the costs?
- Jackson has a tree removal ordinance on the books that requires developers to either replace trees it takes down or to pay to replace them elsewhere in the township. What is the developer’s obligation at Adventure Crossing?
- A coalition of environmental groups expressed its concerns about the project in a letter to the state DEP. In part, it read, “Clearly this project was designed haphazardly without consideration of environmental impacts, air, noise, water and sewer supply permits; infrastructure improvements and costs for transportation, traffic, and stormwater management; and loss of habitat, wetlands, and the existing residential communities not only in Jackson but the surrounding towns.” What has been done to address these concerns?
- In what way do the proposed warehouses provide any benefit at all to Jackson residents, particularly those living in the northwest section of the township?
- Given the limits on public participation at Planning Board meetings inherent in Zoom meetings, it is incumbent on the board to allow all participants to be seen on Zoom, to tape-record each meeting, and to archive the Zoom meeting so it can be viewed by residents at their convenience. Will the board agree to do that?
Jackson planning board members, and members of the Township Council, have consistently turned a deaf ear to the valid environmental, traffic and quality-of-life concerns raised by residents appalled by the decimation of their town. It’s time for planning board members to finally exhibit some backbone and independence. They can begin Monday night by rejecting the warehouse application.