TOMS RIVER-A large 50 acre land tract in the heart of the North Dover section of the township has been changed to limit the density of construction should it be be developed in the future.
In response to public concern over a construction boom in the area, the township council passed an ordinance to spare one of the last remaining large tracts of land from overdevelopment.
The Toms River Republican Club, which controls the majority vote on the council touted the ordinance as a step in the right direction for the community and a sign that both Democrats and Republicans can work together for the common good of the townspeople.
The Toms River council on Tuesday voted to enact an ordinance aimed to tackle the problem of over development due to a sharp increase in the construction of high density housing in the North Dover section of the township.
“After carefully considering several ideas brought before the board, the council opted to rezone over 50 acres of vacant land and qualified farmland between Cox Cro Road and Whitesville Road as the best course of action for the community and to limit the risk of legal actions against the township by affordable housing developers,” the GOP said in a statement.
Council President Brian Kubiel said one proposal brought before the Council by Councilman Dan Rodrick called for the elimination of all multi-family (MF) housing.
“Rodrick stated that Brick Township had enacted such an ordinance however that was not true,” Kubiel said. “After seeing multiple court rulings in favor of affordable housing developers in nearby towns, the council felt that option could burden the community with unnecessary and unwinnable lawsuits.”
Republican Councilman Maurice Hill said, “The proposed ordinance offered by Democrat Daniel Roderick to eliminate or ban multi-family (MF) zones throughout Toms River would lead to expensive and burdensome lawsuits by COAH, Fair Share Housing and developers. Affordable housing developers would have years of New Jersey case law working in their favor, where the majority of rulings were in the favor of developers.”
In nearby Jackson, planners there are grappling with several lawsuits over the township using their codebook to ban land use activities. Case law in the United States has not favored government entities who attempted to use municipal ordinances to ban land uses that, “Were neither a nuisance nor inherently a threat to the public health, safety, or general welfare.”
Rodrick’s plan to ban affordable housing could have had the reverse effect if enacted by the township council.
The Republican council, along with another recently elected Democrat, Laurie Huryk worked together instead to increase the minimum lot requirements of the two properties identified as the Hecht and Lipschitz properties.
Republican George Wittmann said, “This ordinance change was a result of the discussions at the Land Use Committee consisting of the township professional staff along with Councilmembers Hill, Huryk, and myself to adopt the recommendations of the master plan adopted in 2017 to increase the open space set aside for cluster developments in this area from 20% to 50%.”
The zoning change would increase the minimum lot size from 20,000 square feet to 80,000 square feet should those properties be developed in the future. The change to the zoning map would put those 50 acres of land into a zone where the conservation, recreation and open space elements of the township’s Master Plan require a 50% open space set aside. Previously, the land had a 20% open space set aside requirement.
If a future developer wanted to build homes on 20,000 square foot lots, they would be required to set aside 50% of the land as open space.
Republicans in Toms River tout the ordinance as a bipartisan success.
Mayor Tom Kelaher stated “I want to thank both the Republican and Democrat members of the council who worked on this for coming together on this ordinance and for their hard work and long hours trying to find a way to protect us from overdevelopment while at the same time, protecting us from potential unnecessary lawsuits in the future”
Despite claims by Democrats who took to the media to claim credit for the ordinance, the GOP said those claims are hogwash.
“This ordinance was the result of months of meetings and deliberation about how to best serve all of the residents of Toms River moving forward, not as a board divided by Democrats and Republicans,” the GOP said. “Together, we were able to successfully drown out the partisan noise from those who sought only to place blame or take credit to pursue a political agenda.”
“This ordinance is proof that a council split between Democrats and Republicans doesn’t have to be at odds with itself all the time and that if we work together, we can accomplish many more good things for the residents of our township.” said Councilwoman Maria Maruca.