Morristown officials said a 29-unit condo complex approved this week for Ridgedale Avenue will preserve the residential character of the Second Ward, in keeping with wishes expressed by residents during recent zoning master plan hearings.
Ridgedale Commons, which will fit between the Ridgedale Lunch shop and the Jersey Central Power and Light substation, was approved Wednesday by a 5-2 vote of the zoning board, which granted variances for density, setbacks and buffer zones.
Developer Vincent Morrocco of North Bergen Development LLC initially sought approvals for 33 units of one- and two bedrooms. The zoning board preferred 24.
The compromise number includes four units designated as affordable housing. At the board’s insistence, some green space was added to the project; the developer scrapped amenities such as a community room and terrace.
Ridgedale Commons will have a maximum height of four stories, with the first floor set aside for parking. The brick-faced, 19th-century style units fronting Ridgedale Avenue will stand two stories tall; units will be tiered progressively higher toward the back of the property in “layer cake” fashion.
Architects from the Appel Design Group addressed several aesthetic concerns raised by the town Historic Preservation Commission. Plans for Ridgedale Commons have undergone revisions since 2012.
“I’m glad there is a proposal for a residential use on this strip of Ridgedale,” said zoning board member Linda Carrington. “It is a residential zone and it would be good for the neighborhood. I think the people of the Second Ward want and deserve a residential neighborhood.”
Board members Jim Bednarz and Scott Wild voted against the project, citing concerns about housing density. The tract is zoned for garden apartments.
Town planning consultant Phil Abramson said Morristown residents have spent three decades fighting to ensure that Morristown’s section of Ridgedale Avenue doesn’t look like Morris Township’s stretch: “Car dealers and big-box retailers.”
The parcel’s proximity to Route 287 poses marketing challenges for residential developers; landing Ridgedale Commons is something of a coup, Phil said.
“Townhouses bring stability…a project like this helps secure it as a residential neighborhood,” he said.
Councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid, who represents the Second Ward, declined to comment on the project, explaining that the matter could come before the council if residents appeal the zoning board decision.
Mayor Tim Dougherty, who does not serve on the zoning board, said Ridgedale Commons conforms with the spirit of the new master plan and “will have a very positive effect on Ridgedale Avenue.
“It’s what residents wanted–more people coming to live in the area,” the Mayor said.