Trees loom as issue for proposed daycare center in Morristown

Many of these trees, adjacent to Twombly Court, are slated to come down for a daycare center. Photo: Morristown planning report.

Many of these trees, adjacent to Twombly Court, are slated to come down for a daycare center. Photo: Morristown planning report.


Last winter, traffic concerns  trumped a daycare center proposed for Turtle Road in Morristown.

Now, trees loom large for a similar application facing the zoning board tonight, Sept. 3, 2014.

The Learning Experience  wants to open a 10,000-square-foot franchise at the intersection of Normandy Parkway at 170 Madison Ave, to serve 175 children who range from infants to pre-kindergarten age.

A use variance is needed because the property, one of the last undeveloped tracts in Morristown, is zoned only for residential development.  Ordinarily, this variance not pose much of a hurdle. The state considers daycare centers beneficial to society, and expects local boards to do their best to accommodate them.

But the town’s new zoning master plan urges a careful weighing of the pros and cons in such cases.

The intersection of Madison Avenue and Normandy Parkway, where a daycare center is proposed. Photo: Morristown planning report.

The intersection of Madison Avenue and Normandy Parkway, where a daycare center is proposed. Photo: Morristown planning report.

“In the master plan, residents of Morristown made it abundantly clear that they don’t want further infringements on residential zones,” said Phil Abramson, the town’s planning consultant.

One of the cons in this case, according to the town environmental commission, is the proposed removal of 145 mature trees, and as many as 200 trees, from the one-acre site.

“To put this in perspective, the Morristown shade tree commission is planning on spending thousands of dollars to plant hundreds of young shade trees around town,” environmental commission Chairwoman Louise Witt wrote in a memo to the zoning board.

“These are not insignificant trees. Among their benefits, trees provide shade, generate oxygen, absorb air pollutants, protect against soil erosion, reduce urban heat, reduce water pollution and provide a habitat for birds and other wildlife.”

Zoning Boards cannot permit inherently beneficial uses if they will cause a substantial impact to the public good or otherwise impair the intent and purpose of the local zoning ordinance.–Morristown Master Plan


Nor has the applicant, 170 Madison Ave. LLC, explained how it will provide screening buffers for residential neighbors at Twombly Court, Washington Avenue and Normandy Parkway when the trees are gone, the commission contends.  The parcel also borders the Traction Line Recreational Trail.

The applicant seeks to be exempted was exempted from submitting an environmental impact statement. Additional variances are sought to modify town regulations for buffer zones, setbacks and parking. The center intends to create 30 parking spaces, instead of the 35 mandated for a project of this scope.

A representative of the project has not yet responded to Morristown Green’s request for comment.

Other concerns raised by the environmental commission include storm water runoff, traffic impacts, and whether emergency vehicles will be able to navigate the proposed right-turn-only entrance and exit on Madison Avenue to access the daycare center.

“The environmental commission would like the applicant to provide the additional information sought in this letter in order for the town residents to adequately balance the benefits of a daycare center against the detriments to their environment, their neighborhoods and their community,” Witt concluded.

In February, after extensive hearings attended by many residents of Morristown and Morris Township, the town zoning board voted 6-1 to reject an unrelated application for a Rainbow Academy daycare center.

Worries about increased traffic congestion at the busy Turtle Road/Madison Avenue/Franklin Street intersection scuttled that project.

The traffic island near Friendly's is opposite a driveway planned for a proposed daycare center. Photo: Morristown planning report.

The traffic island near Friendly’s is opposite a driveway planned for a proposed daycare center. Photo: Morristown planning report.


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  1. Cynthia Beagles says:

    There are several major issues with this proposal. The trees (why are we letting this developer cut down about 150 mature trees when taxpayers are supporting the Shade Tree Commission to plant them?); the environmental issues regarding water; and safety/traffic. We have no issue with a daycare center. This is just not the appropriate site for it.

  2. Margret Brady says:

    In an area of single family homes, the proposed 10,000SF building is out of scale and an incompatible use for the neighborhood. It makes me wonder why developers seem feel that in Morristown, they can propose developments that they would not even consider attempting in other communities.
    This proposal makes no sense. The one way entrance at an already complicated intersection that any access would involve traffic traveling through other residential neighborhoods to get there. Abutting the train tracks eliminates other alternatives and creates a topography that would be challenging in any circumstance.

  3. Joseph Nosofsky says:

    Samman says a single family home or condominiums would remove the same amount of trees….a 10,000 square foot home, 30 parking spaces, outdoor playground…i don’t think so. excessive lot coverage of 55% where a maximum of 35% is permitted (sec 30- 1102).

  4. There’s no way someone would buy that property for a single family home and then cut down ALL the trees on it. They would want to maintain a significant number of trees to buffer them from the train and the condos and Route 124. This is a commercial development and doesn’t belong on this spot. Besides, how does anyone get into this crazy driveway anyhow?!

  5. The site is completely covered with trees to the extent that the site could not even be developed for its currently approved use. The same amount of trees will eventually go even if someone builds a single family home or condominiums. The development of a day care center is not increasing the number of trees removed versus the development of a home or condo development. A landscape plan has been submitted which includes a buffer between the proposed building and Twombly court. An effort was made in the design of the site plan to minimize the amount of tree removal for environmental and cost reasons.

  6. Margret Brady says:

    Walking down South Street yesterday, my husband and I could really feel the difference in comfort levels as we traveled from the shady portion of the street to those areas without trees.
    In this proposal, not only do the trees proposed to be taken down in order to build another daycare center in Morristown, provide a better environment for the nearby residents, they also provide a buffer from the railroad tracks and filter the noise from the train and a very busy intersection. Consider the children proposed to be cared for at this location. Heavy traffic, noise and a dangerous intersection that would be difficult to reach by any emergency vehicle does not seem to offer a healthy safe environment for the children. What are the developers thinking?

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