- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

JACKSON, N.J. (AP) - A township has banned the construction of dormitories after months of heated debate that some opponents say stemmed from fears of a growing Jewish community.

The Jackson Township council voted to ban the construction of dormitories Thursday, the Asbury Park Press reported (https://on.app.com/2ng4rub ), prompting cheers from the standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 people.

Dormitories are buildings used by schools, colleges or religious groups that are designed to have living quarters. The area has a growing Orthodox Jewish community, and some Jewish residents have questioned why dormitories are singled out.

The law also restricts school construction to three small zones: neighborhood commercial, limited commercial and planned mixed unit residential development.

Two council members said the ordinance isn’t biased against any religion.

“The reality is this ordinance is not against any race or religion and only a bigoted person would think as much,” Councilman Barry Calogero said. “It’s an ordinance that would preserve our current suburban culture, reduce suburban sprawl and limit wanted overdevelopment in our township.”

Supporters of the ban point to ultra-Orthodox communities in neighboring Lakewood that have built yeshivas, Orthodox Jewish colleges or seminaries, which have added to crowding.

“I moved here from Lakewood,” said resident Isaac Tawil. “I don’t like Lakewood. I don’t like what happened to Lakewood.”

The ban seeks to protect quality of life in the town, supporters said, and it isn’t anti-Semitic, as some opponents allege.

Attorneys who have previously represented yeshivas said the law could be taken to court.

Attorney Robert Greene wrote in a letter that the township should consider itself placed on notice that its “heavy-handed attempt” to target a particular population could be legally challenged.

“In this day and age of building walls against other people and cultures, fear and panic should not supplant our important constitutional values,” he said.

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Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, https://www.app.com

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