The Morristown town hall seniors center, which provided temporary refuge to residents in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, may be pressed into service again.
Concerned over the increasing length of zoning board meetings, Morristown officials are considering converting a portion of the center into a dormitory for board members’ use, Morristown Green has learned.
Folding cots would enable board members to catch some sleep in town hall after public hearings that typically stretch past midnight.
This arrangement, believed to be the first of its kind in the state, and possibly the country, is intended as a safety measure.
“We really don’t want bleary-eyed board members having to risk driving home after sitting through six hours of testimony about sight lines, setbacks and façades,” said a person in town hall, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
As Morristown’s desirability has grown, so have demands on the the town’s zoning and planning boards. The number and duration of meetings have spiked dramatically over the last few years.
Zoning board Chairman Cary Lloyd could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. At a recent meeting, however, he pleaded with residents who were upset that he was adjourning at midnight:
“Please, folks! It’s getting late.”
SHOWERS AND SNACKS
Preliminary plans call for installation of showers in the third-floor seniors center, and vending machines with snacks and toiletries, according to the person in town hall.
Some of the renovations would be performed by inmates from the Morris County Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (S.L.A.P.), to control costs, according to the plans.
“A play space here will allow board members to spend some quality time with their children before the meetings, maybe share dinner from the vending machines,” said the source at town hall.
“We’ve been getting complaints from spouses that all the meetings are creating problems at home. We can’t afford to lose these volunteer members; we’re hoping this helps.”
Town officials are said to be awaiting approvals from the state. The dormitory is likely to need a zoning variance, because town hall is not zoned for residential use.
To avoid conflicts, that matter may be heard by Morris Township’s board of adjustment, our source said.
“We’re pretty confident. We think the state would view this use as ‘inherently beneficial.'”