Master plan approved by Morristown planning board

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, second from left, shakes hands with Planning Board Chairman Joe Stanley after adoption of a new master plan. They are flanked by town Planners Phil Abramson and Daniel Hernandez. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, second from left, shakes hands with Planning Board Chairman Joe Stanley after adoption of a new master plan. They are flanked by town Planners Phil Abramson and Daniel Hernandez. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 

Now the real work begins.

By a unanimous vote, the Morristown planning board on Monday approved the new zoning master plan– more than 140 pages of recommendations crafted from 13 months of meetings, input from hundreds of residents and approximately $200,000 worth of effort from professional experts.

Next, the town council must give these policies teeth by converting them into zoning ordinances.

Town planning consultants Phil Abramson and Daniel Hernandez expressed hopes that this can be accomplished during 2014. The process is likely to involve more experts, more studies and many more dollars before everything is tied up with a neat bow.

“There’s a lot of really good stuff in this plan,” said Stefan Armington, the council liaison to the planning board. “I hope to still be in Morristown when this all gets done.”

But officials savored the moment, sharing congratulations for clearing the first hurdle in the once-every-decade task of updating the master plan.

“I’ve been around here for 35 years, and this is the most professional planning effort this town has ever seen,” said board member Dick Tighe.

Our vision is to become the most welcoming, beautiful, healthy, resilient and sustainable place to live, work and play in New Jersey.

– Morristown Moving Forward

Board Chairman Joe Stanley¬†said he has worked on other zoning plans but is “far and away the most proud” of this one, mainly because of the public participation that was solicited.

“We listened, we made modifications, and I think the plan is much better as a result,” Joe said. Board member Tim Murphy credited Mayor Tim Dougherty with setting the tone for Morristown Moving Forward,¬†the name given to a process that started in January 2013 and included several public information sessions and a website for comments.

The Mayor thanked the public, the planners and board members.

“I like the way they’ve woven the town together…This master plan connects the whole town to the rest of the region” and reflects how “Morristown is a lively, vibrant place,” the Mayor said.

The document sketches a mobility plan aimed at making the town more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. It talks about a transit district around the train station, pays attention to “really attractive architecture” and outlines strategies for preserving the character of neighborhoods and smoothing transitions at their boundaries with other zones, said Phil Abramson.

“We’ve learned a lot about Morristown, and Morristown has learned a lot about itself,” said the planner, who began the project as a member of Jonathan Rose Companies and now has his own firm, Topology.

The Mayor even got kudos from the wife of a former mayor from the opposite party.

While early stages of the master plan were a little messy, “I think the residents were heard, and it truly reflects residents’ concerns to protect their neighborhoods,” said board member Debra Gottsleben, whose husband, former Mayor Jay DeLaney, was in the audience.

The master plan’s most persistent critic, former Councilwoman Margret Brady, said she appreciated the “tons of revisions” by the planners, even though “you had to practically beat them over the head with a stick” to achieve the changes.

Some zones have been combined in ways that leave unanswered questions, said Marge, who worries that the door has been opened to more densely packed high-rise development on the fringe of her Franklin Corners neighborhood.

“The council has a lot of work to do,” she said.

Morristown resident Peter Gilpatrick, a developer, urges town officials to spend time and money to implement the new master plan properly. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Morristown resident Peter Gilpatrick, a developer, urges town officials to spend time and money to implement the new master plan properly. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 



Comments

  1. Joseph Stanley says:

    The Planning Board was open to all comments from all residents throughout the planning process. The comment that we somehow might have needed to be beaten over the head with a stick to make changes is disingenuous and completely false. This planning process will serve as an example for municipalities throughout the state for engaging the public throughout the entire process. The Master Plan continued to be refined with each public hearing. Instead of being beaten over the head, I hold my head up high and proudly for a good job by the board, our professionals, the administration and, most importantly, the public who participated in the process.

  2. Michael McMahon says:

    Stop building so many condos and apartments

  3. Ilene Dorf Manahan says:

    This “Master Planning” has been well over a year in the making – with tremendous outreach and thoughtful response – and responsiveness – by municipal officials, the planning board and professional planners. The overwhelming involvement and input by caring Morristown residents cannot be overstated. Kudos to ALL who gave so much of their time to this project. From what I’ve already seen, I’m confident we can look forward to a Morristown that preserves our neighborhoods while supporting a vital business community and continues to be a “welcoming, beautiful, healthy, resilient and sustainable place to live, work and play in New Jersey.”

  4. Margret Brady says:

    Unfortunately, it was not until the final stages, after the plan was drafted and scheduled for a final vote, that the average citizen of Morristown understood that the public imaging sessions they had shared with Township residents and the hired planners and attorneys of potential developers and non-profits wishing to expand, were actually their only shot at giving any input for Moving Forward.
    In fact many did not realize this was actually a Master Plan, since there was little participation from the Planning Board charged with creating this plan at the request of the council.
    Fortunately, as a result of the outcry expressed at the Council and Planning Board meetings, by many residents with concerns, multiple errors were corrected and the plan today is far better than it had been originally.
    That the Long Range Planning committee of the Planning board had never scheduled any meetings to discuss this plan has puzzled me. It could have saved the time and the cost of asking our planners to correct the obvious after the fact. They can’t be expected to know why our neighborhoods developed the way they did or even know the names of every one of our streets.

    Moving Forward became a new way to plan Morristown by incorporating the Township’s vision of how we can spare them the burden of providing many of the services and roads they require in order to keep their most intensive tax paying development on our borders and have less impact on their neighborhoods and tax rate.
    Is this the role our tax payers wish to play Moving Forward?
    Former Mayor David Manahan, introduced the concept of having the Planning Board members and Planners go into the neighborhoods to gather information prior to developing a master plan in 1975. Since that time.every master plan that used that kind of information, improved and benefited the Town.
    This plan was only as good as the information delivered to the planners by computer literate individuals, able to negotiate a web-site with its own name and closed to added information before many of us even knew that this was what we were expected to do. The Town web site was rarely updated and the zoning map was not revised until the afternoon of the March 31st meeting.
    I agree that many are very pleased with the new plan but I doubt that the majority of our citizens or their representatives even know what zones are proposed for their neighborhoods.

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