By Kevin Coughlin
They say the devil is in the details. And details of the redevelopment of Market and Bank streets should start coming into focus on Thursday.
The Morristown council anticipates introducing amendments to last year’s redevelopment plan that may spell out new density levels, affordable housing set-asides, and hours for serving liquor and operating an outdoor cafe at a proposed apartment/retail/restaurant complex.
As of Wednesday, precise details had not been posted on the town website ahead of Thursday’s 7 pm council meeting–which perturbs a spokesperson for residents in the neighborhood.
“Our concern is that no one has time to digest the information. These are pretty significant amendments,” said Donna Gaffney, who lives in the 40 Park condos at Park Avenue and Market Street.
Town Planner Phil Abramson and Town Clerk Kevin Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
UPDATE: Town Clerk Kevin Harris said the time for public input is after an ordinance is introduced. A measure released beforehand would become moot if the council decides to scuttle it, he said on Wednesday night.
“I think the public is putting the cart before the horse,” Harris said.
In April, Millburn-based Vertical Realty Capital LLC presented conceptual plans for a project at Market and Bank streets, to replace a mix of occupied and vacant storefronts in an area town officials consider blighted.
Another builder is erecting a triangular law office, pitched as a “Gateway to Morristown,” at the intersection of Market and Bank.
Closer to the Morristown Green, just beyond the designated redevelopment zone, another group wants to build a Cambria hotel.
An architect for Vertical Realty showed drawings of a five-story, 70,000-square-foot redevelopment with 55 apartments and 22,000-square-feet of street-level storefronts and a restaurant.
Novel proposals included a recessed entrance for café dining; loft-style windows and, possibly, lights strung across Market Street to create a “festival character,” the architect told the council in April.
Council President Stefan Armington said potential amendments may address:
- Whether to allow the developer to build almost 60 apartments instead of the 40 allowed by zoning laws.
- Whether to require affordable units on-site, or to allow the developer to meet his obligation by paying Morris Habitat for Humanity $800,000 to create 10 affordable units on Martin Luther King Avenue.
- Whether to impose a midnight curfew for sales of alcohol in the proposed restaurant. (Vertical Realty asked for, and received, a swift council approval last month to enable the purchase of a liquor license that Pete’s Tavern was selling to the Walsh family.)
- Whether a curfew can be imposed on an outdoor café if that operation sits on private property, instead of the sidewalk. The café would face the Metropolitan apartments across Market Street.
- How many parking spaces to require…and where they will go.
Whatever the council introduces will be reviewed by the planning board before a final vote is taken, Armington said. Ultimately, he said, it boils down to “what do we want there?”
Councilman Robert Iannaccone, whose First Ward includes Market and Bank streets, said he received the proposed amendments Monday and still was reviewing them.
Last year’s Market/Bank redevelopment plan, which updated a 2005 plan, is 84 pages long.
Vertical Realty purchased its two properties at 35-41 Market St. from gallery owner Harry Simon and his sister for $6.2 million last year.
Tenants at the time included the Simon Gallery –which opened its final art exhibition last month–and a pair of fitness businesses. A warehouse, vacant since 1985, has a partially collapsed roof.
Gaffney said many of her neighbors welcome the redevelopment.
“We just want it done reasonably,” she said on Wednesday. “We’re walking into a meeting without any idea of what changes are being made.”