Zoners’ engineer raises issues with property use

Staff Writer

JACKSON — Zoning Board of Adjustment members decided on Oct. 1 that they will need at least one more meeting before ruling on a disagreement between the township and JR Custom Landscaping and Garden Center.

Attorneys representing both parties cross-examined zoning officer Jeff Purpuro about his visits to the company’s locations at 34 Bennetts Mills Road and 141 East Veterans Highway, both in Jackson.

Purpuro, who has worked as the zoning officer since 2007, said he was called to the Bennetts Mills Road property numerous times after code enforcement received complaints from residents about an alleged illegal recycling and composting facility at that location.

In recent months, residents have claimed that JR Landscaping has violated restrictions that were placed on the property by the zoning board and a Superior Court order in 2011.

Chief among the restrictions established in 2011 are a ban against the production of organic material such as topsoil/mulch and the strict operating hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Purpuro said he did not see any violations on the property in recent months.

While most of the discussion at the Oct. 1 meeting dealt with the municipal code and existing conditions on the property, the zoning board’s professionals aired their concerns about the property and the issues the board will face during its final deliberations.

Returning to comments he made at a previous meeting, the board’s engineer, Evan Hill, said the company’s owner, James Picon, failed to obtain Ocean County approval for a 2009 site plan.

According to Hill, the board waived a requirement for a township site plan approval for a 2009 change-of-use variance on the condition that a site plan be conducted if required by the county.

Hill said county officials told him a site plan application was reviewed in May 2009 and was issued an “incompleteness determination” for 17 problems, all stemming from road improvements that would have been required for the proposed farm market.

He said county officials told him they asked Picon to make changes to the application, but have not heard back from the property owner since 2009.

Since Picon and JR Custom Landscaping allegedly failed to conform to a condition of the zoning board’s approval, Hill said operations going on at the property and the building currently designated as the farm market on township documents are not permitted.

“Any use of the farm market portion of the property, other than the one that was permitted previously — residential — is not permitted by any of these resolutions we have,” Hill said. “Only these resolutions approving a retail use was for what was approved back in 1999. … At no point has the property owner secured approvals to use what was formerly a residential building. Period.”

Residents also had a chance to address the issue.

“The problem here that came to arise again as it did in 2011 is that all of the product that was on that property came as the direct purchase of [unfinished compost] from Jackson Township … in November 2013,” Rae Ann Walker said.

“My neighborhood is a very quiet neighborhood, or it was,” Eleanor Hannum said.

Residents also want clarification on documents that appear to show Mayor Michael Reina drove a snowplow this past winter and that there was a connection to JR Landscaping. The documents indicate Reina drove the plow in Brick Township.

Reina said he was working for a subcontractor hired by JR Landscaping to complete the work in Brick Township.

The residents claim Brick Township officials told them there were no subcontractors listed in the official bid for snow removal in the municipality at that time.

At the heart of the matter, however, is the residents’ desire for the issues surrounding the company’s property to be concluded because they say the situation has negatively impacted their living conditions.

The hearing will continue at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 in the municipal building.