Developers of proposed luxury housing for Maple Avenue described it as a “dream project” and themselves as good neighbors on Wednesday.
But the Morristown Board of Adjustment and residents of the town historic district raised so many questions that the meeting will be continued on Nov. 6, 2013.
LK Maple Associates LLC, a subsidiary of Normandy Real Estate Partners, wants to build eight luxury units adjacent to Normandy’s Maple Avenue headquarters, at the corner of Maple and Miller Road.
In a change of plans, project manager Christopher Richter told the zoning board that the developers now envision this as a condo development, rather than a collection of “fee-simple” town homes.
This will enable easier management of common driveways, landscape maintenance and snowplowing, Chris said, while streamlining the approval process. Only seven zoning variances will be needed, instead of 77, for property setbacks, roof heights and lot coverage, he said.
Town planner Phil Abramson, from Jonathan Rose Companies, told the board that he saw no downsides to the condo arrangement. He said he has met with the developers five times to discuss the application.
The Federal-style homes, which would range from 3,100- to 5,500 square feet and sell for an estimated $1.5 million, would replace a former radiology building on the corner, while preserving a Victorian home at 31 Miller Road.
Initially, the developers considered knocking down the house and erecting a 12,000-square-foot office building, or a mix of offices and housing, Chris said. But talks with neighbors persuaded them to alter the project, right down to extending the historic bluestone sidewalks.
He cited costly renovations to the Normandy headquarters, purchased in 2009, as evidence of the owners’ desire to be good neighbors. Normandy, a major property management- and development company, was founded by Finn Wentworth, former president of YankeesNets LLC–the holding company for the Yankees, Nets and Devils–and an architect of the YES Network on cable television.
After discussions with the town planner, the scope of the project was scaled down from nine units to eight units, Chris said.
“This is a dream project,” said former Mayor Jay DeLaney, the lawyer representing the developers.
Grayson Murray, engineer for the project, said five driveways that now access the site would be consolidated to two. One of those is the Normandy headquarters driveway on Maple. The other would be a shared driveway with the house at 31 Miller Road, which would be the main residential access to the housing.
Miller Road resident Brigitte Lebeaut took exception to that; she contended it would be better to put the access on Maple Avenue, a commercial roadway.
There was discussion about whether interior drives should be one-way or two-way (plans call for two-way, entering and exiting onto Miller Road). Questions also were raised about maintenance of the shared driveway; how many mature trees that would be knocked down; property setbacks; the buildings’ proposed four-story, 41-foot heights; the architectural design; and snowplowing.
With no room for snowbanks within interior courtyards, snow would be plowed onto Miller Road.
Board member Michael Leavy said many questions could have been resolved more swiftly if the developers had first appeared before the site plan committee of the planning board. Phil Abramson replied that the developers had been eager to get onto the zoning board’s crammed docket as soon as possible.
At 10 pm, after more than two hours of detailed testimony, the developers still had at least three expert witnesses to present. Board Vice Chairman Cary Lloyd polled his members and they agreed it would be fairer to everyone to resume next month.
Disclosure: The reporter lives in this neighborhood.