Land Use and Shuls Front and Center in Toms River Election
A recent Asbury Park Press article highlighted the prominent place that issues surrounding Toms River’s Orthodox population have taken in its local elections set to be held this November.
Most prominent is a proposed zoning change that would significantly reduce the amount of acreage needed to build a house of worship. The 10 acre requirement, has stymied the development of shuls in the North Dover area which is home to several hundred Orthodox families.
The proposal was released last month, but was quickly pulled from the agenda by retiring Town Council President, George Wittman Jr. He and Council Vice President Maurice “Mo” Hill said they would not support the change. Yet, later, Mr. Hill, a Republican, said that he would approve it if it would satisfy federal authorities who are presently investigating the town’s land use laws amid accusations of bias.
Mr. Hill’s Democratic rival, Jonathan Petro, has increasingly seized on the issue, in attempt to paint his opponent as sympathetic to the needs of the Orthodox community. Mr. Hill has vehemently denied that he has been influenced by any special interests.
Toms River is one of the state’s largest Republican strongholds, but in 2017 elections three Democrats won seats on its council largely with rhetoric criticizing what they portrayed as the council’s accommodation of the Orthodox community’s growth. Some of their campaign literature was criticized as anti-Semitic. One of the group’s most outspoken members, Daniel Roderick, who was recently censured by his fellow council members, re-registered as a Republican shortly after the election.
Arrest made in Fatal Hit and Run on Oak Street
Police have made an arrest in a hit and run accident that took the life of a teenage boy and injured his father.
On October 8, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and Lakewood Police announced that Alexander Politan, a 31 year old Toms River resident had been taken into custody and charged with causing the Death of another While Driving with a Suspended New Jersey Driver’s License, and Knowingly Leaving the Scene of a Motor Vehicle Accident Resulting in Death.
The incident occurred on Friday October 4 at about 9:20pm on Oak Street near Albert Avenue. Jesus Lopez-Grande, a 15 year old student in Lakewood’s public school, and his father, Jesus Lopez-Ramirez, 37 were walking along the shoulder of the street when they were struck by a vehicle. The father sustained an injury to his elbow and the son suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead on at the scene.
Though the vehicle drove off, an investigation of debris left in the area was linked to a black 2014 Jeep Cherokee. On October, 6, a car fitting the police’s description was located in the driveway of a residence on New Hampshire Avenue in Toms River and a warrant was procured. Further investigation revealed that Politan was operation the vehicle during the incident and was arrested and brought to the Ocean County jail where he was lodged pending a detention hearing.
The investigation remained ongoing even after the arrest and anyone with pertinent information was encouraged to contact the authorities.