Deal to relocate private religious schools from Leesville Road at risk over political grievances

Men study and pray at Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva
Men study and pray at Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – Jackson Township Mayor Michael Reina and residents in the area of Leesville Road worked out a tentative agreement to stop the construction of private religious high schools approved to be built. Under that deal, the developer would agree to a land swap with the township to relocate his project to an area near the Jackson Township and Lakewood border, near Cross Street.

In return, the township would take ownership of the Leesville Road property and preserve it forever as open space.

The agreement has been finalized by township lawyers, and developer Mordechai Eichorn is waiting to execute the agreement, but Jackson Township Council President Marty Flemming is now stalling the process.

Flemming was asked by Reina to put the agreement to a town council vote on Tuesday and to offer a public hearing on the land swap at the next council meeting.

“Back in October I announced that the Township had reached an agreement in principle to swap equal-valued properties with the developer of Bellevue Estates. This ordinance authorizes that land swap and I look forward to signing it once Council approves it” said Mayor Reina.

That won’t be happening because Flemming denied the mayor’s request and the matter will not be presented to the council on Tuedsay. It’s no secret that Flemming and Reina have political grievances to settle. Reina soundly defeated Flemming in his challenge against Reina to unseat him in November. The two met recently in a political caucus to settle their differences before Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore.

Gilmore said the meeting went well and Reina agreed to work with Flemming to move the town forward. Since that meeting, Flemming and his dwindling cast of allies have been making a last-stand battle against those who defied him in his election defeat.

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Reina announced on Friday that the township has successfully negotiated the details of the land swap and presented it to Flemming, who, as council president, has the final say as to whether or not the drafted ordinance will be voted on by the council.

For now, the land swap remains in limbo as Eichorn retains approvals to begin construction at the Leesville site if Flemming continues to stall and delay the process.

Flemming made it clear during his election campaign that he would not support the land swap, simply because he was not involved in the negotiations, he was quoted as saying in the Asbury Park Press.

Reina, on Saturday said he was disappointed to see Flemming once again injecting politics into a matter that is serious for those who live in the affected area on Leesville Road, but said the process to get where the town is now is a sign of the future of Jackson with people working together to come up with solutions to difficult issues that may arise.

“I want to thank the many residents in the area who worked hard to help shepherd this agreement through, without whom it would not have been possible. Moving Jackson Forward is a collaborative effort that involves elected officials and engaged residents, this is just one example of what can be accomplished when we all work together” added Reina.

Reina said he did not know when, or if Flemming would put the item on the public agenda. Flemming has not issued a statement on his actions.