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Hill Backs Off House of Worship Acreage Reduction Ordinance

TOMS RIVER-With the November election nearing and an internal poll shows Toms River Councilman Maurice Hill and his opponent Jonathan Petro running a neck and neck race to become the next mayor of the township, Maurice Hill created a little distance between himself and the Orthodox Jewish community in town.

After a memo was leaked over the weekend from within the township government sent by the township’s legal department recommending a change from the 10-acre zoning for houses of worship calling for reductions as low as two acres, Hill issued a press release.

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Under the proposed ordinance, drafted and delivered to the township council’s land-use sub-committee, Toms River would reduce Toms River’s zoning for Houses of Worship from 10 acres to 7 acres town-wide and to 2 acres in the northern part of town near the Lakewood border.  The ordinance was scheduled to be heard at the September 17th meeting but was reportedly pulled from the agenda by Council President George Wittman.

Word of the ordinance, which was previously unknown spread through town hall like wildfire and eventually leaked to sources outside of town hall.

Now is not the right time for the zoning change, Hill said.

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“My colleagues and I on the council approved the existing zoning regulations for Houses of Worship over the last 10 years and I think we got it right,” Hill said. “I don’t know what the lawyers are thinking, but I am opposed to these changes as a Councilman and I will oppose them as mayor if I am elected,” Hill said. “Now is not the time to make zoning changes.”

The election is now just eight weeks away.

“Zoning decisions, even for Houses of Worship, are not made with any particular religion in mind,” Hill said. “We have a devout community of many religions, I am proud of that. We welcome all to Toms River who appreciate our quality of life and follow our laws.”

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