JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – Two New Jersey based builders associations with executives and members close to Jackson Mayor Michael Reina have filed a lawsuit against the township over an ordinance Reina signed into law which was passed unanimously by the township council. The New Jersey Builders Association and the Shore Builders of Central New Jersey this week filed a joint lawsuit against the township.
On or about April 28, 2020, Jackson, through its governing body, adopted Ordinance No. 04-20 (hereinafter the “Ordinance”) which added Chapter 364 to the Township of Jackson Township Code, entitled “Soil/Fill Importation Permit. The plaintiffs argue that the township’s ordinance is not only burdensome to local builders, but the meeting held via zoom meeting was held illegally, without proper prior public notice.
“The public notice issued by the Council in advance of the meeting pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6, et seq., did not specify that the meeting would be “chat” conducted via Zoom,” the lawsuit claims. “During the course of the April 28, 2020 Zoom Council meeting, members of the public were not permitted to provide verbal comments on matters under consideration by the Council. Rather, public participation was limited to written comments utilizing the “chat” function of the Zoom software.”
The plaintiffs contend the township failed to comply with New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act. Many members of the community also voiced outrage over the township’s heavily moderated Zoom meetings, which were managed by Council President Alex Sauicke and Business Administration Terrance Wall. During that meeting and other subsequent meetings, residents alleged Wall silenced the public voice, heavily moderated public comments, and at times, even misrepresented messages typed into the chat window by members of the public.
“By failing to allow verbal comments from the public during the meeting, the Council offered insufficient public participation at the April 28, 2020 Council Meeting,” the lawsuit reads. “Plaintiffs demand judgment as follows, adjudging and declaring the Ordinance to be arbitrary and capricious, ultra vires, void, unlawful and unenforceable;
(b) for attorneys fees and costs of suit; (c) for such other relief as the court deems just and proper.”
The lawsuit also claims the ordinance is vague, lacks a reasonable set of standards, is unreasonable and lacks standard definitions needed for proper compliance and fairness in the law.
The New Jersey Builders Association represents New Jersey residential and commercial builders, many of which have close political ties to Mayor Reina himself. Thomas Bovino, of Jackson 21 serves as the treasurer of the New Jersey Builders’ Association. Bovino and Reina have worked together in the past to promote building and expansion in Jackson, particularly in the 2013 promotional video in which Reina spent over $20,000 for a commercial development advertisement for the township. In that publicly funded commercial, Bovino’s apartment complex project, Jackson 21 was prominently featured.
“Mitch Leigh’s been working very closely with the mayor and Jackson Township to design a vision of a dream village,” Bovino said in that commercial. The two have worked closely, even as ten years later, the commercial component to Jackson 21 has yet to materialize.
Shore Builders Association represents Jersey Shore Builders Association represents builders in the shore area, including some of Reina’s closest political allies and even some businesses that have public contracts with the township.
Members include Cardinale Enterprises, who Reina recently granted a spot-zoning ordinance to build 500 apartments near Six Flags Great Adventure; Arya Properties, owned by Frank Sadeghi, whose company Morgan Engineering. Morgan Engineering was appointed by Reina to serve as the township’s special project engineer and land surveyor.
French & Parrello Associates, appointed by Reina in 2020 as the township’s environmental engineer and impact study consultant is also a member of the Shore Builders Association currently suing the township.
Some of the entities represented by the plaintiffs even donated to the political campaigns of Reina, Alex Sauickie and Andy Kern in 2018. The lawsuit is now the 7th major lawsuit filed against the township in the past 36 months.
The developer of Jackson Trails, a controversial building application denied last year by the township is also suing the township in a separate lawsuit regarding the same ordinance.
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