JACKSON-Jackson Township is now facing its second federal civil rights lawsuit after the township planning board voted to deny a residential development project on South Hope Chapel Road.
A 100 page lawsuit was filed on Monday, February 3rd explaining in detail why the developer is suing the town and why he feels there was a coordinated effort by the Jackson Township government to deny his application simply because he is Jewish.
The lawsuit claims the township has intentionally discriminated against Orthodox Jews, detailing a four-year historical record of the township’s actions, they claim were intended to prevent the growth of the Orthodox Jewish community. It also claims the denial was in breach of the 2016 Fair Share Housing settlement agreement which was authorized by the township.
Jackson Trails proposed to build a 367 single family homes on one-third acre parcels and 92 multi-family units in accordance with the township’s affordable housing obligation. Lawyers for the township and the applicant during the hearing which took place between August and December of 2019 agreed the application was fully compliant within the township’s zoning laws and masterplan and did not need any variances.
Residents and planning board members felt the township should deny the project because of environmental concerns they felt were not addressed during the hearing.
The development was proposed in what the township declared a “Regional Growth Zone” which allows for the construction of single-family homes within the pinelands region of the township. The RG-3 Zone which the application was proposed also allows for the development of houses of worship.
Township officials during the hearing raised concerns over “English Basements” and wanted assurance from the builder that those basement units would not be turned into rental properties, turning the single-family use homes into two-family homes. Township attorney Gregory P. McGuckin asked that the developer stipulate that those basement apartments and the housing units will not be turned into dormitories.
The lawsuit claims to detail a pattern of behavior by township officials and dissenters of the project aimed at blocking the project. The lawsuit claims to have audio of members of the public conspiring to acquire pine snakes to deposit on the property to block the project as they are an endangered and protected species and highlights a four-year pattern it claims township officials at all levels have worked to block the growth of the Orthodox Jewish community in Jackson.
You can view the entire lawsuit online, which was published by the Lakewood Scoop.