JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – Jackson Township Business Administrator Terrance Wall in a recent town council meeting said many of Jackson’s newer residents aren’t following the rules. Wall singled out complaints about residents of the Orthodox Jewish faith who are running prayer groups and turning private homes into houses of worship. In some cases, Wall said construction is being done without permits but said most of the offenders are Orthodox Jewish residents who are new to the community.
“The goal is compliance,” Wall said. “There are people not following the local laws that are on the books. It doesn’t matter where you come from, where you live, or your faith, that we all follow the same rules together as respectful neighbors.”
In a meeting, last September, Wall, a Monmouth County resident said most members of the town are following the rules, but some aren’t and by some, he meant members of the Orthodox Jewish Community
In response to home prayer groups being held in private residences in the township, Wall said his office and the council work collaboratively to investigate complaints by residents and others.
Wall said all complaints received by his office from upset residents are referred to the appropriate department whether it’s zoning, code enforcement or the police department.
“Folks being able to have the quiet enjoyment of their home and for people following rules and being respectful and civilized with their neighbors, it’s very simple…if somebody is violating the rules it’s simple…they go to court,” Wall said referring to Orthodox Jewish prayer groups operating in the township.
The comments came as Mayor Michael Reina and the township announced the hiring of new township employees to investigate complaints.
“Generally speaking, we’re a nation of laws, and we should be a municipality of mutual respect for each other,” Wall said. “There was definitely a need for more coverage.”
Wall said the community should feel comfortable and confident to lodge complaints about their neighbors who might be violating the township code. Wall said the township will now be expanding the code enforcement department.
“You have a vast majority following the rules, respecting each other and raising their families to live work, and play,” Wall said. “However there are folks who violate the law who don’t care, they’re disrespectful of their neighbors, and even when provided with summonses, they continue to disrespect and continue to not care and not be concerned with multiple summonses and that’s very difficult. It’s a very unusual happenstance.”
Wall said the township hired a new weekend code enforcement inspector to manage complaints on Saturday and Sunday. He said the offices will be expanding to evening hours since that’s when many of the prayer group complaints come to the township.
He said eventually, the complaint window will be a 24-hour per day service to deal with “persistent violators”.
Council President Andrew Kern said as problems arise such as an Orthodox Jewish homeowner hosting a 700 person house party, the council responded in kind with an ordinance banning short-term rentals.
“We’ve raised almost a dozen different fines around the township. We raised the fine amounts for breaking those laws,” Kern said. “There’s a number of things we can do and there’s a number of things we already have done and we look at and go through, what the rules on the books are, made in 1973 or 1997, it doesn’t matter. We need to make sure they are up to date and a true deterrent to breaking them.”