Driveways, rooftops, condo switch dominate Morristown hearing on proposed luxury homes

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.

Morristown Zoning Board member Linda Carrington looks at Maple Avenue housing plan, while project engineer Grayson Murray fields a question from resident Karen Ann Kurlander. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Morristown Zoning Board member Linda Carrington looks at Maple Avenue housing plan, while project engineer Grayson Murray fields a question from resident Karen Ann Kurlander. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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.

Maple Avenue view of proposed townhomes by Normandy Real Estate Partners. Image courtesy of Barton Partners.

Maple Avenue view of proposed condos by Normandy Real Estate Partners. Five units would front on Maple; three would face Miller Road. Image courtesy of Barton Partners.





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  1. Although the structures, which are near completion, are a bit too tall for the neighborhood, they an extraordinary asset to the streetscape along Maple as compared to the totally inappropriate “architecture” of the former radiology building.

  2. Jim Gervasio says:

    As long as it stays residential it’s a good fit.
    It will be a good tor the town. This project will bring in new taxes and more shoppers.
    Getter Done

  3. Margret Brady says:

    The Franklin Corners neighborhood decided to compromise on many aspects of a proposed condo development in the Franklin Corners neighborhood on Franklin Place in 1989. It was a difficult decision when the majority of the neighbors decided to support the proposed development. That plan resulted in the loss of a historic house that we all would have preferred to keep but after the developer made many changes to his plans in order to preserve the scale and balance of the remaining Victorian homes on the street, we c supported his proposal.

    After 20 years or so, the Franklin Corners Neighborhood is far more stabilized. The Town found that not only did they gain more than 60 new taxpayers but our new neighborhood residents added to our strength and numbers when we continued to fight to preserve the residential historic character of our neighborhood from the encroaching medical center and other inappropriate development pressures.
    Many of us now enjoy the pleasure of having these new friends and neighbors in our lives and I know of no one who regrets making those compromises at that time.
    I’d like to point out that many of the Victorian homes in Morristown, including the National Register gem, Willow Hall, were featured in a book by former residents Robert Guter and Janet Foster about the pattern books that featured the plans for those homes. Pattern books homes are often well designed which led to their popularity through the centuries.
    I do not see the existing building on Maple and Miller as an asset. I do feel that with the preservation of 31 Miller Road, this proposed new development could have a positive impact.

  4. what it really is – is a series of buildings picked out of a book of architectural renderings. They do not fit the neighborhood in the slightest way.

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