New Jackson Spot-Zoning Would Open the Door for High Density Apartments in Existing Commercial Corridor


JACKSON-The Jackson Township Council has introduced an ordinance that will allow for spot zoning of multi-family apartments within an existing commercial corridor that exists along Route 537 between the Jackson Premium Outlets and Six Flags Great Adventure.   One of the properties affected is owned by commercial real estate developer Vito Cardinale who is also building the adjacent “Adventure Crossing” project which includes sports fields, a sports dome and recreational facilities in the first phase of the project.

While the proposed zoning change to accommodate Cardinale’s project will combine the uses currently afforded in the existing Highway Commercial zone, it will add uses available in other commercial zones including Neighborhood Commercial, LM Commercial Office and CR-1 Commercial and Recreation.  Under Cardinale’s plan, he attests that buildings will be limited to patient living facilities for a future multiple sclerosis research center to be built on the site, but once the ordinance is passed, he is not bound to that.

Cardinale had attempted to build a downtown city like facility in Manalapan, but residents there opposed the project.

The new zone will be called, “Highway Commerical – Mixed Use”.  Some of the new uses in the zone would be a convention center, exhibition hall, stadiums, banquet facility, and an open-air theater.  Hidden in the resolution is the allowance of “Multifamily Residential dwelling units”.    The ordinance appears to be tailor crafted for Cardinale to avoid the application being heard in front of the zoning board and reviewed by the public.

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To prevent the overdevelopment of adjacent properties in the future, the township council could remove the wording “Multifamily Residential Dwelling Units” and replace it with “Assisted Living Facilities” or “Residential Patient Care Facilities” to keep Cardinale and future developers of adjacent properties honest.   By allowing multi-family residential dwelling units, applications for high-density apartments, townhomes, condominiums and others would be able to bypass the township’s zoning board.   By removing the residential units from the ordinance, builders who would seek to build high-density housing would have to apply for a variance.

Hospitals and philanthropic eleemosynary uses are already a permitted use in the existing highway commercial zone.

Under the new mixed-use designation, adjacent properties can be redeveloped for multi-family housing units as seen below.  The red section represents all of the property affected by the new ordinance. The yellow represents the existing phase of Adventure Crossing and the blue represents the next phase of Jackson Crossing where those patient facilities, which are now being proposed would be built.   The green section represents land that would be available to build future high-density multi-family apartments without the requirement for a zoning board hearing.

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Cardinale Enterprises is represented by attorney Sal Alfieri.  In November, Mayor Michael Reina attended a cocktail reception hosted by Alfieri at the Landshark Bar and Grill in the Resorts Casino during the annual League of Municipalities before having dinner with Cardinale later that evening at Bobby Flay’s at the Borgata Hotel and Casino.  Two weeks later, the township adopted a Master Plan revision which paved the way for the current ordinance proposed by the township council.

If Jackson Township’s elected officials are truly serious about curbing residential overdevelopment, the ordinance should be tabled, the allowance for multi-family housing units should be removed and replaced with a term that permits residential patient care facilities being proposed by Cardinale.

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In the early part of the century, Jackson engaged in a similar dispute with Mitch Leigh, the developer of Jackson 21 which promised to bring a downtown living community to Jackson that included many of the amenities being proposed by Cardinale, including theaters, recreational space and more.  Jackson 21 boasted a vibrant commercial downtown district and housing for young professionals and empty-nesters.    Instead, to date, all the developer has delivered on has been high-density apartment projects.  No plans for the commercial component have been submitted to the township nearly 8 years later.

According to a 2013 feature in Builder Online, Jackson Woods, the first phase of the project consists of 610 acres of residential apartment units, 510 rental units in all.   Jackson Common, was the dream of now-deceased composer Mitch Leigh which was to include 38 new buildings including offices, retail, restaurants, a museum, library, five-floor hotel, and sports facilities.

Phase two of the Adventure Crossing project calls for approximately 400 apartment units spread across 17 three-story buildings.