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Toms River Proposes Two Acre Zoning in North Dover, Elected Officials Respond

TOMS RIVER-Toms River officials on Friday drafted a resolution to lower the zoning on houses of worship in North Dover from 10 acres to 2 acres.  That ordinance which was drafted for the township Land Use Committee also called for a 3-acre reduction in zoning for houses of worship outside of North Dover.

The ordinance was crafted by township hired attorneys Anthony Merlino and Marci Hamilton.

By Friday evening, rumors spread across the county about the ordinance change.  Later in the day, it was learned that Toms River Councilman George Wittman pulled the resolution from the board’s next meeting agenda.

On Monday morning, Councilman Maurice Hill who is running for mayor issued a press release saying he does not support the resolution drafted by the lawyers the township had hired.

“My colleagues and I on the Council approved the existing zoning regulations for Houses of Worship over the last 10 years and I think we got it right,” said Hill, a four-term councilman. “I don’t know what the lawyers are thinking, but I am opposed to these changes as a Councilman and I will oppose them as Mayor if I am elected.”

Laurie Huryk a councilwoman who also serves on the Land Use Committee disputed Hill’s claim today and said the 7 acre zoning proposed by the lawyers had been discussed by all after receiving pressure from the United States Justice Department.
“Council President Wittmann knows exactly how the zoning changes ended up on the Land Use Committee agenda; the township had committed to the Department of Justice that Toms River would be brought into compliance with federal law this year,” Huryk said. “These corrective actions had been discussed many times, and needed to be enacted in a timely manner in order to save the taxpayers of Toms River untoward fines and penalties resulting from the current federal investigation.”
Both Wittman and Hill acknowledge those discussions but said no decisions had been made about whether the township should comply with the federal government’s request.
Hill said, that changing the zoning for houses of worship was not a good idea “At this time”.
Huryk contends that Hill and Wittman attended every meeting of the Land Use Committee, but Hill admitted he missed one meeting while on vacation in Europe during the May meeting.
According to Huryk, the Department of Justice reopened its case against the township’s zoning and land use laws which it feels unfairly limits members of the Orthodox Jewish community that is growing in the North Dover section of town and beyond.
According to the Asbury Park Press, township officials agreed to make the zoning changes requested by the DOJ back in January of this year.

The Asbury Park Press Reported:

Among the changes included in the report are:

  • Reducing the amount of land needed for a house of worship from 10 to 7 acres.
  • Allowing churches and places of worship as conditional uses in the rural residential zone. Houses of worship were removed as conditional uses from that zone in 2009.

“First the Democrats accuse Mo of being ‘cozy’ with the Orthodox and now they accuse him of lying about his opposition to zoning changes for house of worship. Good luck with that,” Mo Hill’s campaign Facebook page read today, referring to Hill’s affiliation with his neighbor Scott Gartner, a resident who has lobbied for the zoning changes.  Gartner had supported Hill during this year’s Republican primary campaign.

Hill added that he will host a Facebook live session today at 2pm.

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