“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. 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.”
TOMS RIVER-That is what Toms River Mayoral Candidate Maurice B. Hill said during his election campaign in 2019. In February of 2020, Hill is singing a different tune.
In a story on February 13th in the Asbury Park Press, Hill confirmed an earlier report by Shore News Network that he is moving forward with Orthodox Jewish community leaders in Toms River to amend a 10-year-old ordinance to reduce the minimum acreage for the construction of houses of worship in Toms River.
“Mayor Maurice B. Hill Jr. said Hamilton has met twice with members of the Orthodox community and township officials, and there likely will be a third meeting. Under discussion has been a township ordinance that requires a minimum of 10 acres to build a house of worship,” the Asbury Park Press reported.
Shore News Network attempted to obtain township records regarding those meetings, but the township denied the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.
Shore News Network initially broke the story last summer after Hill, then serving as a council member, tried to sneak an ordinance into play that would lower the 10 acre requirement to 7 acres in most of Toms River and two acres in the North Dover section of town. After being tipped off that SNN had obtained a copy of the ordinance, Hill sprang into action and blamed the township council Democrats instead for the ordinance.
It was never determined who ordered the township attorney to draft a new ordinance, but it was never introduced once its existence was made public by SNN.
Hill did not report when he would once again meet with Orthodox Jewish community leaders or when he would introduce a zoning ordinance, but he is under some pressure to get it done by the Toms River Jewish Community Council and others.
Last month, Hill lashed out via township email against Councilman Daniel Rodrick who was asked to meet with the TRJCC to discuss the ordinance after he said he agreed with the existing ordinance that has been on the books in Toms River for over 10 years.
Hill told Rodrick he doesn’t have the authority to make decisions for the township council. Rodrick notified Hill that he only made the decision for himself, not on behalf of the council or the township.
Township officials have also refused to release the email discussion between Hill and Rodrick.
Photo: Mo Hill, provided by the Toms River Republican Club.