Former Morristown Mayor Cresitello accused of zoning violations in primary aftermath; says ‘absolutely no’ violations

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Former Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello has been charged with using a commercial building as a residence, in violation of town zoning regulations.

Four complaints allege that he failed to obtain required approvals to reside in an office building on New Street. Each complaint could bring a $2,000 fine if the former mayor is found guilty, said town Zoning Officer John Fugger.

The zoning officer said he investigated after Donald was quoted by the Daily Record acknowledging he used the Second Ward address to vote in last month’s Democratic primary.  The Morris County Board of Elections upheld Donald’s absentee vote, in a close council race that is being contested.

“I have a lot of experience in zoning law,” Donald said on Friday. “There is absolutely no zoning violation at my operation.”

Former Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, right, at Memorial Day service on the Green. Next to him is state Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.) and an unidentified veteran. Photo by Bill Lescohier
Former Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, right, at Memorial Day service on the Green. Next to him is state Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.) and an unidentified veteran. Photo by Bill Lescohier

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for East Hanover municipal court on Aug. 4. Morristown Municipal Judge Gary Troxell transferred the case to avoid any appearance of conflicts.

The former mayor said he has moved elsewhere in town–he declined to say where–“to avoid any controversy.”

He maintains an office at the New Street address, he said.

“Others have voted from their offices,” he said, asserting the practice is not uncommon.

Contracting equipment and trailers are stored outside the brick building, near Evergreen Cemetery. A realtor’s sign is on a garage door.

Signs on the property refer to Donald’s COARC electrical contracting company. But the town’s complaints cite another of his companies, NJSA Inc.

Specifically, the complaints allege violations of sections 30-1001.1,  30-1101, 30-902 and 30-501.1  of the town’s land use regulations.

Those sections prohibit alterations to nonconforming uses and require site plan approvals or variances before adding a second principal use to a property. The complaints are dated June 24 and claim the violations occurred around June 8.  The primary was on June 7.

This building is a the heart of a zoning dispute between the town of Morristown and former Mayor Donald Cresitello. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
This building is at the heart of a zoning dispute between the town of Morristown and former Mayor Donald Cresitello. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Donald supported Councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid, who prevailed in the Second Ward primary against challenger Toshiba Foster, a candidate backed by Mayor Tim Dougherty.

A recount upheld the outcome, but Toshiba contends there were voting irregularities–including residency issues– and next month she will ask a Superior Court judge to overturn her 21-vote defeat.

Donald Cresitello and town officials have clashed before on zoning issues.

As he was leaving the mayor’s office, he waged an expensive eight-month battle to win the right to subdivide his longtime residential property on Mills Street. During the 2009 primary race, which he lost to Tim Dougherty, Donald’s administration accused Tim of making improvements to his property without zoning approvals.

Last year, Donald agreed to pay more than $11,000 in fines for alleged violations of state campaign finance regulations in 2005.  He settled, he said, because he did not want to risk higher penalties. But he intends to fight the town’s zoning summonses.

“There is no zoning violation,” he repeated.

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