‘We’re not Jersey City and Hoboken’ : Morristown zoning board nixes downtown housing


In a vote that was as much a referendum on the board’s role as it was on the job, the Morristown zoning board on Wednesday narrowly rejected a proposal to graft 3 flooring of apartments atop businesses on the prime corner of South and DeHart streets.

“I feel the better very good is the zoning ordinance becoming enforced the way it is meant to be,” Chairman Steve Pylypchuk stated in the course of a spirited debate — in which a the greater part in fact supported the challenge as fantastic for the downtown.

But the 4-3 vote in favor was not sufficient: The variances sought by setting up proprietor Joseph Milelli needed five votes.

He had hoped to tip the equilibrium by adding sweeteners–an additional unit of very affordable housing and cosmetic tweaks–to options previously revised lots of situations, about 6 digital hearings stretching to final yr.

Scott Wild, Noelle Nish, Thomas Ferrera and Anthony Murphy agreed with the applicant that 21 downtown residences would help organizations, a goal of the town’s zoning grasp program.

But Pylypchuk, former Chairman James Bednarz and Barbara McNally felt the undertaking would have subverted zoning ordinances that specified DeHart Road as a dividing line, separating bigger redevelopments near the Morristown Environmentally friendly, and additional modest buildings in the direction of city corridor.


The vote unveiled an even further divide on the board, break up in a seeming tug of war for the coronary heart and soul of Morristown.

Can a area steeped in Groundbreaking lore retain its small-city allure amidst galloping advancement, in what some are hailing as “the western Hoboken”?

Milelli’s making, once property to Scotti’s Documents, “is a dump” begging for a facelift, argued Wild.

‘A DUMP,’ explained zoning board member Scott Wild, who supported strategies to insert a few flooring of apartments over 23-27 South St, pictured in December 2020. Picture by Kevin Coughlin

“It’s a wonderful undertaking. It will make Morristown significantly greater. It sets us on the trajectory that we really should be on. There should not be any 1-tale structures, heading down South Road.
That is a tragic, tragic under-utilization of area. They all need to have to go. They all want to be like this, 3 tales, heading down the corridor,” Wild said.

Murphy shared people sentiments.

“Gentrifying that place is beneficial… You know, Jersey City, Hoboken, you have obtained to begin someplace, you’ve received to establish, you have acquired to increase the business enterprise,” he claimed.

Bednarz took exception to the comparisons.

“I know you want to see Morristown crafted out. But I’m joyful with letting them carry on to construct out Jersey Town and Hoboken, very honestly,” he explained.

“We are not Jersey Metropolis and Hoboken,” echoed Pylypchuk. “We are Morristown. Listed here, it is diverse. I moved in this article for the reason that we are not Jersey Metropolis.”

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The outcome was a unusual defeat for challenge Lawyer Frank Vitolo. Formerly, he informed the board Milelli experienced expended hundreds of 1000’s of bucks very carefully crafting a proposal that would not displace his commercial tenants at 23-27 South St.

Job legal professional Frank Vitolo and furry pal, March 3, 2021. Screenshot by Kevin Coughlin

After the board’s selection, the lawyer rejoined the Zoom assembly, cradling his puppy.

“My pet is making an attempt to realize that vote,” Vitolo mentioned. “I never!”

Re-developing the construction may possibly have served criteria outside of helping organization tenants. If Milelli experienced opted alternatively to switch it with a new apartment building, he probably would have faced even better zoning worries, Pylypchuk noted.

City planner Phil Abramson, who served update Morristown’s zoning around the previous decade, proposed Milelli’s undertaking embodied the spirit, if not the letter, of individuals codes.

The Morristown zoning board at its sixth Zoom hearing for proposed apartment/retail setting up at South and DeHart, March 3, 2021. Screenshot by Kevin Coughlin

Resident Scott Shuman advised the board “vibrant, chopping-edge projects” like this a person are why he and his fiancée moved here two a long time ago.

“I feel the project is superb,” testified Barry Goffin, operator of the 23 South gift boutique, an anchor tenant in the building. He phoned the assembly to explain his landlord’s proposal as a favourable step, in a downtown evolution Goffin’s family has observed for a half-century as Morristown stores.

Other tenants are J.C. Reiss Optician, Pure Pita, the Laboratory Hair Studio,  Zero-180 Marketplace and, in the basement, the Laundromat bar. No person from those people establishments spoke.

In the beginning, Milelli sought approvals for 30 residences, like penthouse suites.

Project planner Michael Tobia presented a lot more variations Wednesday, responding to board issues raised previous month.

A studio apartment was selected as inexpensive, bringing the complete to 4 very affordable units, a single a lot more than expected. (Although concerns were being raised about whether or not a studio counts as a full device.)

Two trees ended up added to the designs, whilst a rain yard and visitors “bump-out” were being removed, for every needs of the Shade Tree Commission and board. Windows and doorways were being re-built, and Morris Arts committed to a mural on a rear wall.

But these modifications could not conquer simple math cited by opponents.

Calculated by flooring place and models per acre, the project’s density significantly exceeded the lot’s zoning. Twenty-just one models were pitched. Only nine are authorized. With a utmost of 4 tales. This task would have been five stories, counting the basement nightclub.

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