TOMS RIVER-The United States Department of Justice has made their stance clear. Toms River’s existing 10-acre zoning barring houses of worship is illegal and unfairly targets all religions, but more specifically the Orthodox Jewish religion.
Toms River Councilwoman Laurie Huryk tried to back Council President George Wittman and Councilman Maurice Hill off the ledge but was unsuccessful.
“The Department of Justice has given us an opportunity to fix this,” Huryk said. “We can keep our place at the table and determine our own zoning laws. If we don’t change it, they will tell us what our zoning laws will be. We don’t want to lose our ability to decide our own zoning laws.”
Huryk and Terrance Turnbach both said the township has done its due diligence, even hiring the nation’s top religious land use attorney Marci Hamilton to guide them through the process. Hamilton suggested that a compromise of 7 acres would both satisfy the Department of Justice and retain the township’s ability to better manage the placement of houses of worship.
George Wittman declared that as long as he is in office, the township will not be hearing this matter again and said that it will be the responsibility of whoever wins this year’s election to handle the problem, kicking the can down the road in his final few months as a lame-duck councilman.
Mo Hill reiterated that he will challenge the Department of Justice and now, will not budge on the 10-acre minimum.