The following is an article written by Randy Bergmann, former AP and Asbury Park Press editor. Republished with permission.
JACKSON, NJ – Reason, intelligent planning and responsiveness from Jackson officials were absent once again at Monday night’s planning board hearing on a new warehouse/indoor recreation building proposal for the second phase of the $500 million Adventure Crossing project on Route 537.
The biggest adventure on the stretch of Route 537 incorporating Adventure Crossing, Great Adventure, Hurricane Harbor, the proposed Trophy Park mega-sports park, eight fast food restaurants, four hotels and 500 apartments – will be motorists heading home trying to make it safely and before the sun comes up the following day.
Given Jackson officials’ predilection for paving over the town, the outcome Monday seemed inevitable. The skids for approval of the plan on a site totally unsuited for it were greased back in February, when the zoning board approved a zoning change that made warehouses a permitted use.
It was done after a neighborhood group, Jackson Neighbors Unite, sued to block an earlier plan that included a multi-story golf driving range and bar, and two exits that would have fed onto Anderson Road – a two-lane residential road incapable of handling what it has now.
The settlement allowed the developer, Cardinale Enterprises, to come back with a revised plan – and it did, seemingly with a vengeance. Warehouses don’t belong anywhere adjacent to a residential neighborhood or, for that matter, anywhere between Great Adventure and I-195.
The developer’s planner, engineer and traffic consultant spent about 90 minutes putting the best spin on their plans, minimizing or ignoring legitimate concerns about the environment, traffic and the adverse impact it would have on nearby residents’ quality of life. No one should have to deal with the noise, dirty air and light pollution from trucks pulling in and out of the warehouses at all hours of the night.
The approval was less surprising than the fact that not a single board member voted against it. The approval will be memorialized at a meeting a month from now, and residents, already beaten down by unresponsive officials and the costs of litigation, will have 45 days to appeal. Unless a benefactor, disgusted by the town’s failure to advocate on behalf of its residents, comes forward, the approval will stand.
At this point, residents in the Anderson Road area can only hope that clear-cutting on the site won’t take place until — or if? — Cardinale finds a tenant or tenants for the warehouses. Jackson should not allow any trees on that site to be bulldozed until contracts with tenants have been signed.
The only probing questions directed at the developer’s “experts” came during the public hearing portion of the meeting. Major holes were poked in the environmental impact statement and traffic studies.
The traffic consultant, John Rea, confined his remarks to the immediate impact the second phase – the warehouses and indoor recreation building – would have on the Route 537 corridor. Lanes will be added to the lone exit for all three phases of the project, and the U-turn west of the site, which people coming from the east must take to enter the site, will be widened.
Rea had nothing to say about how Route 537 east of the site, where two lanes merge into one, would be able to accommodate the additional traffic. Why? Because it won’t be able to accommodate it. And there are no apparent plans to widen the road near the I-195 interchange or make other improvements. It will be a traffic congestion and traffic safety nightmare.
Jackson officials have demonstrated time and again that their loyalties are with the developers and the club of professionals who feed off them, rather than the residents they should be representing.
For those who value Jackson and its quality of life, there are only two ways to fight back: Put up an electoral slate that can remove the current cast of characters, or work to consolidate the efforts of the various neighborhood groups that have sprung up to put o