As Warner Wolf used to say, “Let’s go to the videotape!”
It will be necessary to figure out the crazy ending to Tuesday’s Morristown council meeting, where a restaurant’s request for a St. Patrick’s Parade alcohol tent was shot down after a failed attempt to impose restrictions…only to be approved in a do-over by a 6-1 vote supported by council members who had opposed it just moments earlier.
At least, that’s what we think went down. It happened faster than we could scribble. More on that in a moment.
The meeting’s biggest news was unanimous approval to settle a lawsuit that has stalled construction of a CVS pharmacy for the last year.
Salvatore Cortese, owner of land adjacent to the proposed pharmacy, sued CVS and the town for use of 14 proposed parking spaces and an easement granting permission to access Speedwell Avenue via the pharmacy site. The settlement appears to give him those things.
Once the deal is signed, sealed and delivered, the town must fine-tune a re-developer’s agreement for the project, said town Administrator Michael Rogers. If everything proceeds smoothly, he predicted pharmacy construction could be under way by summer.
Mayor Tim Dougherty has endorsed the CVS project at the corner of Speedwell and Spring Street as a major piece of a massive Speedwell Avenue redevelopment that finally is taking shape after at least a decade on the drawing board.
“I felt it was a frivolous lawsuit…but I’m happy it’s settled now, and [CVS] can move forward to closing,” the Mayor said.
When the council approved the pharmacy in December 2012, members of the Cortese family argued that without an easement, it would be impossible for them to build housing and retail space authorized for their slice of land under Phase Four of the town Speedwell Redevelopment plan.
‘IT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A FIREMAN’
Meanwhile, demolition of a former car dealership on the CVS site has been hastened by Old Man Winter. Heavy snow collapsed part of the roof last week. Demolition now may proceed within days, the Mayor said.
CVS had been negotiating to buy the site from the Lotz family when the Cortese lawsuit was filed.
The Mayor had kudos for an emergency response network that made sure nobody was trapped under the fallen roof.
“It made you want to be a fireman,” he said.
The Mayor also praised the public works department for “working tirelessly” to remove snow from nearly 100 streets during the harshest winter in recent memory.
Crosswalks deserve more snow removal, he acknowledged, adding that the town aims to crack down on out-of-towners attempting to park free alongside residents in Morristown Parking Authority garages during storms.
Schools should receive advance notice about road closures for snow removal, so bus routes can be altered, Councilwoman Michelle Dupree Harris said.
One school bus got stuck in snow while trying to turn around, she said, and had to be towed out.
A committee was established to study snow removal issues. Council members Alison Deeb, Toshiba Foster and Raline Smith-Reid will serve on it.
As for potholes, Michael Rogers said the town continues to press Morris County and the state to repair the intersection of James and South streets, which are under their respective jurisdictions. The DPW has worked hard to respond to potholes on municipal thoroughfares, the Administrator said.
The evening wound down with a bizarre lightning round of votes culminating in George & Martha’s American Grille getting permission to run its tent from noon to 11 pm on March 15, 2014, parade day in Morristown. It’s the only establishment to seeking approval for a tent, marking a departure from past years when several bars erected tents for the drinking public.
Councilman Stefan Armington proposed changing the tent closing time to 10 pm, as in prior years, citing noise concerns. Council President Rebecca Feldman seconded the motion but it failed to gain a quorum.
Police Chief Pete Demnitz testified that George & Martha’s posed no law enforcement problems last St. Patrick’s Day, however.
When the council voted down the entire request, Alison Deeb, the governing body’s lone Republican, hotly insisted that was unfair. After some animated parliamentary procedure discussions with town Clerk Matt Stechauner, council members voted to rescind their rejection.
The tent then was approved, for the original hours requested. Rebecca Feldman , the only dissenter, later explained that she does not condone outdoor drinking downtown.