Consultant helps town seek business

Law would
create new
economic panel

Staff Writer

Consultant helps
town seek business
Law would
create new
economic panel
Staff Writer

Like any good sales pitch, the message is simple and direct: Jackson is open to business.

To make that point clear, the Jackson Town-ship Committee introduced two ordinances at its Dec. 8 meeting that are intended to encourage retail development.

If the committee adopts both ordinances on Dec. 22, an Economic Development Advisory Committee will replace the Jackson Township Industrial Commission.

The change is being made on the advice of the township’s retail consultant, Barry Lefkowitz, according to committee members. Lefkowitz was hired in September for a six-month period. The committee retained his services at a maximum cost of $35,000. He will be paid from the industrial commission reserve account funds, according to Township Manager John Kennedy.

Mayor Michael Kafton applauded Lefkowitz’s work at the committee’s meeting last week.

"Mr. Lefkowitz is a step in the right direction," he said. "The man is really off and running."

Deputy Mayor Sean Giblin also commended the move.

"The industrial commission was formed to sell off land," he said. "It’s served its useful purpose. Taxpayers will benefit more from us holding onto the land."

However, the committee’s only Republican member, Josh Reilly, questioned the reliance of a consultant who also provides the same service to neighboring Howell.

"Why would someone working for Howell advocate for [Jackson]?" Reilly asked. "Is it going to be Howell against Jackson?"

Committeeman Joseph Grisanti said he did not share the same concern.

"I’m very comfortable with Barry Lefkowitz," he said.

Reilly abstained from voting on the introduction of the ordinance to create an advisory committee, citing lack of sufficient information prior to the meeting. His action brought immediate rebuke from Democratic committee members.

"Do we have to spoon-feed you?" Kafton asked in irritation.

"Read the minutes of the Planning Board," Committeeman Michael Broderick said.

Broderick is the committee liaison to the Planning Board.

"We’re not going to do your homework," Grisanti said to Reilly. "We’re tired of that."

Despite the replay of a scenario that has been enacted at previous committee meetings since Reilly was elected to the governing body last year, the junior member was unperturbed.

"I just got something off my chest," he said. "I feel better."

The proposed seven-member Economic Development Advisory Committee that would replace the cur­rent industrial commission would consist of one member of the Planning Board; one member of the Township Committee; a township police officer; a commissioner or employee of the Jackson township Municipal Utilities Authority (JTMUA); the municipal engineer, unless otherwise directed by the committee; the town­ship’s economic development coordina­tor; and one resident. Members would be appointed to three-year terms each.

The importance of the Planning Board in attracting business development was acknowledged by Lefkowitz when the consultant made an appearance at its Nov. 25 meeting.

The board’s secretary, Janice Kisty, declined to say what Lefkowitz told the board and Lefkowitz was unavailable when a reporter for the Tri-Town News called him on Monday.

However, township environmental commission member Denise Garner said in a letter published in the Dec. 11 Tri-Town News that Lefkowitz told the board that the state’s category C1 envi­ronmental protection of the Metedeconk River would hinder plans to develop Jackson commercially.

The Township Committee has taken the position in the past that environmen­tal protection of the township must be a priority. Grisanti said that position has not changed.

"No one is against the C1 classifica­tion, but it was originally a 300-foot buffer (near the Metedeconk), which would basically diminish our ability to commercially develop the County Line Road corridor," he said. "The state now has agreed to reduce that buffer re­quirement to 100 feet. It balances our need to attract clean, commercial rata­bles with the need to protect the envi­ronment."

Grisanti described the type of com­mercial businesses the committee sought to attract as restaurants, medical offices and other non-polluting companies.

While committee members were aware of Garner’s concerns, Kafton said in a separate phone interview on Monday, the current administration in­tended to balance environmental protec­tion with a determination to attract commercial ratables to town.

"Jackson is probably at the forefront of the state in protecting our natural re­sources, whether it be the land, the wa­ter, or the air that we breathe," Kafton said. "[However,] we’d like to bring in some upscale restaurants, a convention center and more medical office buildings. Mr. Lefkowitz has been talking with some large business entities with respect to locating in town and that’s something that a growing community such as ours needs to offset the tax burden that our residents already bear."

In other business on Dec. 8, an ordi­nance was introduced that would amend the penalty for tree removal. According to township attorney Kevin Starkey, the new ordinance would replace the one en­acted by the committee in 2001. Superior Court Judge James D. Clyne struck down that ordinance last spring after the New Jersey Shore Builders Association challenged it.

"This time we’re confident that the new ordinance complies with all of Judge Clyne’s decision," Starkey said.

The committee once again tabled an ordinance it first tabled at its Nov. 24 meeting. The ordinance would have amended Chapter 109 of the Municipal Land Use Code by clarifying lot frontage and lot width requirements in certain zones.