Morristown council okays Tashmoo expansion; sparks fly over pond dredging

Testy exchange between Mayor Tim Dougherty and Councilwoman Alison Deeb over Foote's Pond issue. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Video: Foote’s Pond dredges up hard feelings

By Kevin Coughlin

The Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar got the green light on Tuesday to proceed with plans for a new restaurant on DeHart Street that will share its liquor license.

Morristown’s council approved an agreement forged last month that eases an alcohol curfew imposed previously as a condition of the license “expansion” sought by David Walsh’s DeHart Associates LLC.

Walsh’s new establishment will be permitted to serve alcohol indoors until midnight, instead of 11 pm. However, the 11 pm cutoff still applies to alcohol in the courtyard.

Council President Stefan Armington and Councilman Robert Iannaccone, whose First Ward includes Tashmoo, voted against the expansion.

Tashmoo's David Walsh listens to testimony. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, march 31, 2016
Tashmoo’s David Walsh listens to testimony at March 2016 hearing. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Both men said they mostly like the agreement, but each expressed concerns about the precedent set by relaxing the curfew.

“I thought it was unfair to the Iron Bistro and other applicants,” said Iannaccone. The Iron Bistro, another license expansion project, is contesting council-mandated alcohol curfews of 11 pm on weeknights and 11:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Curfews were imposed in response to complaints from residents about late-night misbehavior by patrons of Morristown bars, which serve alcohol until 2 am.

Two stipulations were added for Tashmoo on Tuesday, during a special session that preceded the regular council meeting.

The new restaurant’s basement only may be used for storage, and patrons won’t be allowed to take their alcoholic beverages onto the patio after 11 pm.

Last month, the council nixed Walsh’s request to increase that courtyard from 1,200 square feet to 2,200 square feet.  The council also shot down a request for curfew waivers on 10 popular drinking nights, and said no cooking or bars were permissible outside.

Restrictions also were placed on open windows and doors at the new restaurant, in hopes of minimizing noise for neighboring residents.

More approvals are needed from the town planning board. Walsh’s lawyer has estimated the new restaurant will open in two years.

Still pending are a pair of ordinances intended to help the council better handle future applications for liquor license expansions.

One measure would clarify definitions of bars and restaurants, which are not differentiated by the town’s zoning laws.  The other would redefine expansions, Armington said, to ensure they are limited to contiguous properties. Tashmoo’s plans call for separate structures, sharing the same liquor license.

IN OTHER BUSINESS… ERUPTIONS AND OLIVE BRANCHES

The council approved a waiver of registration fees for taxi companies, to help them compete against ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft.  Taxi companies must request the waivers when they apply to the council for their annual license renewals.

Justin Davis
Justin Davis, who narrowly lost a council bid last year, will fill an unexpired term on the zoning board.

Justin Davis, a Democrat who lost by 8 votes to Republican Councilwoman Alison Deeb in last fall’s Fourth Ward race, was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the zoning board.

Council members Armington and Iannaccone opposed the appointment; they supported Scott Wild, who has served as an alternate on the board for several years.

The meeting also featured eruptions and olive branches.

Councilwoman Alison Deeb, left, with map of Foote's Pond. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Councilwoman Alison Deeb, left, with map of Foote’s Pond. Photo by Berit Ollestad

Eruptions came when Deeb pressed Mayor Tim Dougherty for his intentions regarding the dredging of Foote’s Pond, an environmental matter that town Administrator Jillian Barrick said is being studied.

The Mayor told Deeb that the town is reviewing maintenance issues involving several waterways, and accused the councilwoman of only piping up around election time.

Deeb reminded the Mayor that her re-election was last year.

After a testy exchange, Dougherty got up and left. When he returned, Deeb pressed on–until Armington ruled her out of order.  At that point, Deeb stormed out. (See the video above.)

On a lighter note, longtime government critic Gregg Bruen, who has accused the town of overlooking illegal housing overcrowding (“stacking”), gave the town two hand-carved wooden benches as parting gifts.

Bruen said he has sold his Speedwell Avenue home — which he claimed already is being carved into multiple bedrooms.  He suggested the benches be placed behind town hall, where police could rest between shifts on sunny days.

The Mayor praised Bruen’s workmanship.

One of two hand-carved  benches that Gregg Bruen donated to Morristown. Photo by Berit Ollestad
One of two hand-carved benches that Gregg Bruen donated to Morristown. Photo by Berit Ollestad

 

 

 

 

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