Morristown council: Taxes, traffic and trees

Here’s a novel twist in Morristown’s CVS saga: On Tuesday the town council agreed to a pharmacy request for a tax break which, thanks to a quirky formula, actually will pay the municipality more than it would have pocketed without the break.

Huh?

First, a fast rewind. When the council approved the pharmacy in December 2012, Mayor Tim Dougherty hailed it as a crucial piece of a Speedwell Avenue redevelopment on the drawing board for more than a decade.

Partial roof collapse of vacant car dealership on Spring Street. Photo by Berit Ollestad

February’s partial roof collapse at a vacant Lincoln-Mercury dealership on Spring Street, future home of a CVS pharmacy. Photo by Berit Ollestad

The CVS project then got delayed for more than a year by legal challenges from adjacent property owners; those claims were resolved in February.

That same month, the roof of a former car dealership at the Speedwell/ Spring Street location partially collapsed under heavy snow.

CVS officials said the collapse greatly has increased costs of an asbestos cleanup at the site.

In all, environmental work and design changes mandated by the town have added some $1.5 million to the pharmacy’s estimated construction costs, according to Thomas Banker, a lawyer for CVS.  That made the company re-think the project’s viability, CVS representatives told the council.

So the council voted 6-0 (Councilwoman Alison Deeb was absent) to introduce an abatement that will enable CVS to reduce in-lieu-of-taxes payments by about $1.3 million over its 30-year agreement with Morristown, according to Tom Banker.

Yet, paradoxically, the town will reap at least $2 million more than it would have without the abatement, Tom said.

The Morris School District will take the hit. Its share of the in-lieu-of-taxes payments will diminish, under the theory that this should matter little to the district because the pharmacy, unlike a residential project, will not generate any new students for the schools.

Meanwhile, the town’s portion of the CVS payment pie will grow to 95 percent.

Got that?

‘SICK AND DEAD’

In other business, the council heard more complaints from Abbett Avenue residents who expressed frustration with speeders and heavy trucks in their Second Ward neighborhood.

“If I get hit by a car, I am going to be looking at all of you,” said Alaria Jackson, a senior citizen who raised concerns back in December. “I don’t care if you have to put a police officer there 24 hours. We are getting sick and tired. I just don’t want us to be sick and dead.”

Residents said speed bumps on Abbett are spurring motorists to goose their speeds between bumps.

The Mayor responded that two speed-monitoring signs are on order. His office also awaits word from the state on whether signs can be posted more prominently on the Route 287 exit ramp, to direct heavy trucks away from Abbett.

Additionally, the Mayor urged residents to phone him to report any illegally parked commercial vehicles.

TREE PARTY

The Mayor also acknowledged the volunteer Shade Tree Commission. Appointed last year, commissioners will plant their first tree, a sugar maple, at the J. Robert Tracey Veterans Memorial Park, at 10 am on Arbor Day, Saturday, April 26, 2014.

It should be a busy morning for environmentally minded citizens: The annual town-wide Spring Cleaning commences at 9 o’clock that morning.

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty reads Arbor Day proclamation to the town Shade Tree Commission. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty reads Arbor Day proclamation to members of the town Shade Tree and Environmental commissions. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 



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