Resolutions confirm Leigh’s right to build 1,640 homes

By mark rosman
Staff Writer

Resolutions confirm Leigh’s
right to build 1,640 homes
By mark rosman
Staff Writer

JACKSON — A resolution passed by the Planning Board in early 1997 extended the time limit for developer Mitch Leigh to build 1,640 homes at one location in the township.

Under an initial approval given in 1989, the board voted to allow Leigh to build 1,640 homes on 582 acres. According to the resolution, Leigh was proposing to build 311 single-family homes and 1,330 multifamily units.

According to the resolution, the majority of the site is in the Town Center zoning district, where single-family and multi-family homes are permitted. A portion of the tract containing 12.5 acres is along Trenton-Lakewood Road (Route 526) and is in a B-3 Highway Business zone.

Leigh sought approval to build the project in 12 phases over 20 years. The board granted preliminary approval for a period of 10 years (through March 14, 1999).

The board’s resolution states that the majority of the site is wet, but noted that "the board’s engineer also testified that the wet ponds which had been designed for this site will not create an adverse drainage impact upon the site and more importantly that the drainage plan will not adversely impact upon the sensitively environmental areas located on this site."

The board granted Leigh a design waiver to permit a cul de sac in excess of 1,200 feet and a design waiver to permit the use of alternative materials for storm drainage pipes.

By 1997, no building had occurred and attorney Raymond F. Shea Jr., representing Leigh, came before the Planning Board to seek an extension to the approval.

In its resolution the board said, "the evidence submitted by the applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Planning Board that the applicant has been unable to complete the project due to the economic downturn that has affected the real estate development industry. Accordingly, it is the determination of the Planning Board that this five-year extension of the period of protection previously granted can be given."

The approval for the 1,640 homes was extended until March 14, 2004.

It is that approval for 1,640 homes that Leigh has said he has as he and his representatives have in recent months unveiled a plan to build Towne Centre, a mixed-use development of residential, commercial and retail space.

No formal plan for Towne Centre has been filed with the township Planning Board. Descriptions of the plan have indicated that the development site is now approximately 960 acres on a tract that abuts Interstate 195 to the north, and encompasses property roughly between Route 527, Diamond and Freehold roads.

Published reports have indicated that Leigh now wants to include more than 5,000 housing units in the project.

A series of public hearings held to gather residents’ opinions on the idea of Towne Centre has taken place in recent months. Some residents have stated their outright rejection of the idea and some residents have indicated support for the plan that Leigh has called his dream.

At an Oct. 3 meeting at Jackson Memorial High School, Leigh told those in attendance he can build the 1,640 homes for which he has approval or proceed with the concept of Towne Centre.

A representative of Leigh told the Tri-Town News this week that the developer is waiting for Jackson officials to schedule another public meeting at which more input from the community will be heard on the Towne Centre concept.