Watchdog Group Accuses Jackson Council of Wrongdoing Over Affordable Housing Ordinance

Highview Homes, LLC, will not have to go before the township zoning board to build 216 affordable housing apartment units in a 7 building, three-story apartment complex on Larsen Road courtesy of the Jackson Township council and has submitted an application to the planning board to get the project started.

The council approved the zoning change this past summer that will allow the project to proceed directly with the planning board.

The project is located across the street from the Howard C. Johnson Elementary School, in a now wooded area.

40 of the units will be reserved for low to moderate-income families.

A claim was made last week on a community watchdog Facebook page called “Fed-Up Jackson Residents”, claiming the township council’s recent ordinance to turn a huge parcel of land into high-density affordable housing was a “Sell Out Deal”.

The post read, “An inconvenient truth – with the real truth coming out. Like the original post stated …. they are lying to you. Jackson was warned this was a sell out deal. So it makes sense why Council changed our master plan for LARSEN Road COAH of over 200 high density housing units across the street from the Johnson Elementary school w/dumpsters on the street facing the school. The soon to be owner/developer has his office in Township attorney Gilmore’s building and served on Gov. Christie’s transition team together. Then the “secret” meeting at Gilmore’s office. Either Jackson residents are out of touch or this Mayor and Council are out of touch…not sure which.”

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But was this ordinance change a sellout deal as claimed by the watchdog group?
Two members of the Jackson Council voted against the ordinance, Barry Calogero and Rob Nixon.

Both denied any knowledge of any kind of deal.

“As you are aware, I have voted against COAH and high-density Development each and every time since I became an elected official,” Calogero said.  “If you listen to the meetings recording I’m sure I explained my vote.”

Councilman Nixon said he voted no on the ordinance, which he did.

The remaining council members Ken Bressi, Scott Martin and Anne Updegrave did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the topic.

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What we do know is that the developer Highview Homes LLC’s President and CEO is John Abene, a Monmouth County builder.

According to public records, a John Abene is also listed as the CEO of Delsea Energy, which was based out of 10 Allen Street in Toms River.

The 10 Allen Street building is owned by Gilmore, the township attorney and township affordable housing attorney, but that’s where the connections end.

That office was also the scene of a December 2016 political caucus meeting that included the Jackson Council, members of the Jackson Municipal Utilities Authority and township attorneys. The meeting was sharply criticized by townspeople.

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At the time critics wanted to know what, if any township business was disussed. Councilman Robert Nixon told residents it was just a political strategy meeting, but no participants at that meeting have divulged any details on the discussions.

Abene served on Governor Chris Christie’s 2009 transition team and is a regular donor to Republican candidates according to New Jersey Election Commission reports.

We asked members of the township who voted yes to the ordinance, but all declined to comment on their decision to change acres of woodlands into a high-density affordable housing project.


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