JACKSON-For years, Lakewood resident Shlomie Klein has been fighting corruption and over development in neighboring Lakewood Township. He started by speaking out at town council and zoning board meetings about backroom deals, political corruption and other factors that have contributed to the overdevelopment of Lakewood Township, now a burgeoning city.
Klein calls himself the First Amendment Activist. As an Orthodox Jew, criticizing the Orthodox Jewish establishment in Lakewood, he hasn’t made many friends in government along the way.
At the February 11th Jackson Township Council meeting, Klein criticized the township council over a deal made with developer Vito Cardinale to change zoning for lots he is developing to allow for at least 502 high-density multi-family apartments in an existing highway commercial zone.
“I’m sorry to tell you that, but this room smells like Lakewood now,” Klein said. “This is the typical way that Lakewood would do the master plan. Each zone says you can do what. Your master plan is written like the Lakewood master plan.”
Part of that Lakewood smell in the room could be emanating from newly appointed Jackson Township attorney Gregory P. McGuckin, whose law firm also serves as Lakewood Zoning Board attorney where Klein frequently operates. The ordinance, which was drafted by McGuckin for the council is similar to what appears to be commonplace in Lakewood Township but is a first for Jackson.
The ordinance as approved changes the zoning of Cardinale’s property from Highway Commercial to Highway Commercial Mixed Use. Under the ordinance, Cardinale can build 502 apartment units, a medical research facility that proposes 146 apartments for patients and an Amazon-style industrial distribution facility.
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The night before attending the Jackson meeting, Klein documented the Lakewood Township zoning board meeting where residents were up in arms during a master plan review hearing that would continue to allow high-density apartments in that town.
Klein said that Lakewood is a recipe of corruption and claimed that his life is at risk for his activism in Lakewood after he started exposing what he called corruption on the Lakewood boards.
“A Lakewood developer problem should not happen in Jackson,” Klein said. “When I came in the members of the council went into the back room together, there’s probably nothing happening, but it doesn’t look good.”