By Kevin Coughlin
In Morristown, it seems as perennial as tulips in spring. When the temperature thaws, B & B talk sprouts on the town council.
Council President Stefan Armington plans on Tuesday (Feb. 28, 2017) to introduce a bed-and-breakfast ordinance that would allow up to four of them in town, as conditional uses.
“I personally like B & B’s,” which are cozier than hotels, Armington said on Monday. “I think it’s good to have them in an historic town. It’s another way to attract people to town.”
A new hotel proposed for Market Street and the popularity of temporary rentals via website Airbnb demonstrate the appetite for guest lodgings in Morristown, Armington contends.
Patterned after an ordinance in Maplewood — which has one bed-and-breakfast, Les Saisons Inn— Armington’s proposal would limit B & B’s to detached single family homes with enough land for on-site parking, and landscaping or fencing to screen cars from public view.
Such residences would be owner-occupied and managed, with no more than four guest rooms and a maximum of eight guests, including children over the age of six.
Owners could not serve alcohol, or meals except breakfast, and swimming pool use would be off-limits to guests, who could not stay more than seven days per month. Outdoor events would require special permits and notification of neighbors.
Owners could face daily fines of $1,250 for violations. Licenses would cost $100 a year, and owners would pay hotel taxes, Armington said.
While the planning board may be asked to recommend optimal neighborhoods, the council president said, “I think [the ordinance] can stand on its own.”
Les Saisons opened in Maplewood in 2009 and charges $100 to $185 per night, catering mostly to area residents who need a place for visitors to stay, owner Art Christensen told Morristown Green last year. Maplewood’s township clerk told Armington there had been no problems.
Bed-and-breakfasts have stirred passionate debate in Morristown, especially among residents in the Historic District, where stately Victorian homes exude charm.
Ken Miller, chairman of the town’s historic preservation commission, questions the preservation value of B&B’s. A neighbor, Rutgers professor Michael Rockland, has said B&B’s would enliven the town.
Some have expressed reluctance to invite an influx of strangers to their neighborhoods, along with concerns that failed B&B’s could morph into boarding houses. Others have suggested that Morristown’s Revolutionary War history and walkable downtown are tailor-made for B&B’s.
The council fell one vote shy of experimenting with bed and breakfasts, in 1991. A year earlier, a survey of three neighborhoods found two-thirds of their residents liked the idea.
Mayor Tim Dougherty was not a fan of last year’s proposal, but said he’s open to hearing the pros and cons revisited.