By Mark Rosman
JACKSON – During a public comment session that ran more than an hour on May 9, Jackson Township Council members heard from several residents who expressed concern about what they said is an increase in the number of single-family homes that have become rental properties.
Residents said the homes were converted to rentals after being purchased by investors who do not live in Jackson.
Residents who raised the issue told the members of the governing body that the conversion of residences from long-time homes to families to places where unrelated individuals now reside has led to drug sales being conducted out of some homes and acts of vandalism being committed in some neighborhoods.
One resident said Jackson has become a transient community and told officials the quality of life for many people has disintegrated.
Other residents spoke about an ongoing situation in which real estate agents are coming to their homes without permission to do so and asking if they want to sell their residence.
The speakers told the council that in some cases, real estate agents seem to be unaware that some Jackson residents have placed their names on a “No Knock” list which indicates they do not want to be disturbed. They said real estate agents are supposed to obtain and honor that list.
Residents said they are watching numerous homes being sold in several neighborhoods and seeing the face of those neighborhoods change in a very short time frame.
Another resident reported what she said is the use of some homes in residential neighborhoods as houses of worship on Friday evening and Saturday. The question she asked municipal officials is when a residence changes from a home to a house of worship.
The township attorney said there are legal cases pertaining to those questions and said that legal precedent may affect how municipal officials are permitted to address the concerns being raised.
Some people who spoke acknowledged there is no noise coming from the homes where they believe religious services are being conducted and said that in some cases the individuals who worship in a home are walking to their destination and not adding vehicular traffic to neighborhood roads.
A question was raised as to how many homes in Jackson can be used as houses of worship.
Council President Kenneth Bressi told the residents that officials heard everything they were saying and he said the township attorney will look into how these situations may be addressed.
Regarding real estate agents who solicit individuals to sell their homes and the private residences apparently being used as houses of worship, the residents who spoke on May 9 did not mention a specific religion associated with those activities.
At prior meetings, residents have identified individuals they believe to be Orthodox Jews as being the real estate agents making the solicitations and they have spoken of an increase in the number of Orthodox Jews who have recently moved to Jackson.
Neighboring Lakewood is home to tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews. Some people have posited that the ongoing growth of the Orthodox Jewish population has outpaced Lakewood’s ability to provide housing and that Jackson has become a desirable alternative.