The Jackson zoning board has seen a lot of turnover in the past few months, losing two members to criminal activity and scandal. Details have come out about former members that may end up calling into question previous decisions of the zoning board, such as denying the application of a religious school in town.
One might wonder, how did these people get on the board in the first place? The Jackson municipal code sets the procedure for filling a zoning board position as follows:
§ 244-8 Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment, presently in existence pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 et seq., is hereby continued. The Zoning Board of Adjustment shall consist of seven regular members, who shall be appointed by the Township Committee.
B. Alternate members.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment shall not have more than two alternate members, who shall be appointed by the Township Committee. Alternate members shall be designated at the time of appointment by the Township Committee as “Alternate No. 1” and “Alternate No. 2.”
So, according to the existing law, the “township committee” of Jackson must vet and appoint members to the zoning board. Which is pretty straightforward, except that Jackson no longer has a “township committee”! In 2006, voters chose to reorganize the government and split the five member “township committee” which included a mayor and deputy mayor into a five member council where the mayor was a separate position.
In the “committee”‘s absence, the new council seems to be filling the role of “township committee” by appointing members to the zoning board.
In fact, there are almost 200 mentions of “township committee” still on the books at Jackson. Approval from the “township committee” is still explicitly required for a number of activities including (but not limited to):
- soliciting donations
- selling anything in parks
- renting public buildings or facilities
- hiring a town planner
- holding a parade
- getting a commercial license
- establishing a campgrounds
- destroying garbage found on the street
- spending open space trust fund money
- naming a street
- holding a raffle
Having the council step in, despite the code saying “committee”, seems reasonable, right? Otherwise the town would practically grind to a halt. Well, let’s see what the current administration says.
When asked to approve an eruv in the public “right-of-way”, another duty of the “township committee”, the council instead responded by amending the code to remove this phrase and the ability of anyone to approve “right-of-way” exceptions. Here is the code when the request for an eruv was made in August 2017:
§ 372-8 Obstruction of streets restricted.
No person shall encumber or obstruct any street or public place with any article or thing whatsoever unless permission has been first obtained in writing from the Township Committee of the Township of Jackson.
And here is the code after being amended by ordinance in September in response to this request:
§ 372-8 Obstruction of streets restricted.
No person shall encumber or obstruct any street or public place with any article or thing whatsoever.
They then explained why the change was necessary:
COUNCILMAN MARTIN stated amendments can be executed in the future and at this point the language needs to be corrected to indicate the Council form of government. The Council will continue to improve this ordinance.
COUNCILMAN NIXON stated the main issue is correcting the language in the Code to the current form of government. Before we can make accommodations or have conversations on this ordinance this must be corrected. It must have the proper format and provide the Mayor with the power to enforce and omit the Council which is stated under the current ordinance. My vote is yes.
COUNCILMAN PRESIDENT BRESSI stated he concurs with all the statements made by the Council. As mentioned at the previous meeting the form of government needs to reflect the current government. There may or may not be amendments to this ordinance and discussions are still being made. Thank you for listening to the different views and opinions given by our community. I vote yes.
That’s odd. Why is it suddenly impossible to approve an eruv in the public “right-of-way” without a “township committee”, yet dozens of other activities that require one (including appointing zoning board members) can still be done in its absence?
Seems kind of arbitrary, but maybe there is some pattern. Can you think of one?