Morristown house on death row gets (temporary) reprieve from planning board

Commercial house at 10 DeHart St. would be replaced by bowling nightclub if the town approves a liquor license transfer sought by the Walsh family. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
This house at 10 DeHart St. is on the chopping block. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


Morristown’s house with nine lives has used up another one.

A deadlocked planning board on Thursday temporarily blocked the Walsh family from demolishing a three-story house to make way for a restaurant at 10 DeHart St.

Last month the demolition appeared to be a mere formality. Attempts to find a taker for the 122-year-old, gambrel-roofed structure had fallen through, and the board voted 5-3 to authorize attorneys to prepare a resolution lifting the Walshes’ requirement to move the house.

But several board members were absent for Thursday’s vote on that resolution and the 3-3 result meant that the condition remains in place.

Members Joe Kane, David Gilliham and Dick Tighe voted to keep the requirement; board Chairman Joe Stanley, Councilman Stefan Armington and Susan Glover supported waiving it to allow demolition.

Mayor Tim Dougherty and fellow board member Tim Murphy arrived after the vote (Murphy noted that meetings now start a half hour earlier than they did last year); members Mark Gandy and Debra Gottsleben were absent.

Moving the house was among the board’s conditions when it approved the restaurant plans last February. David Walsh’s attorney had suggested the move.

Kane indicated on Thursday he might not have supported the restaurant if he knew the house was destined for demolition.

“We’d like to see more effort made for moving the house and saving it,” Tighe added on Friday. “It’s somewhat historic. It’s from a period in town that was interesting. It already was moved once. It seems a shame to go through all that to have it torn down.”

The house was moved from Pine Street in 2002.

Stanley saw things differently.  “It’s basically just a shell of a building,” the board chairman said.

“They have a right under normal zoning to demolish the building,” said Armington. “There was a good faith effort to move the building. I don’t think it’s reasonable to say the entire project is null and void if they don’t move it.”

David Walsh could not be reached for comment on Friday. According to Stanley, Walsh told the board he intends to file an amendment to the original site plan, allowing demolition.

“We don’t have to re-hear the whole application. But they must simply give justification why that condition [to move the house] should be stricken,” Stanley said.

Over the years, the structure has filled many roles: Private residence, office building, salon, deli.

Morristown realtor Kathryn “Kit” Godby obtained approvals last year to move the house to nearby Catherine Lane and convert it to apartments. But she concluded zoning requirements made the project infeasible, and she backed out.

A woman in the audience Thursday voiced interest in moving the house to Maple Avenue. Does this building have one more life?

Stay tuned.

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  1. Kudos to those who made the effort to move the building. However, at some point, the economics got in the way of sentiment. Just because something is old, doesn’t necessary mean it holds historical significance or that is should be preserved. This project should not be held up because a good faith gesture on the part of the property owner did not pan out.

  2. Completely agree. The town could use a nice size outdoor eating/bar area and a rooftop lounge as well. The handcuffs being put on the expansion that is responsible for all of this business and interest increase in town is quite disappointing. Sorry to see the animosity as a home owner nearby the square.

  3. I am in my mid-20s and I find it disgraceful to treat business people like this. They are bringing jobs and dollars to VACANT storefronts and buildings. If the design is cohesive, what is the issue??

    I know all of my friends in town would love a Mexican/tequila bar, would love a rooftop bar or something with large outdoor options and would love a little more variety in where we go out.

    Morristown has turned itself around from a town no one wanted to be in to what it is now. Do NOT go in reverse. Keep progressing! Look what its done to Hoboken! (yes- I do realize there are negatives in Hoboken, like parking), but we have more space out here for that.

  4. Why are we fighting to keep a shell of a building that nearly no one takes pleasure in seeing? A nice large restaurant will serve the area well, and I’m sure you will see that with many many people saying they approve of it when they vote with their wallets at the new establishment. I agree with Jim, this board cannot get out of its own way. We need more restaurants and a variety of bars. Stop biting the hand that feeds the town’s expansion.

  5. Seems like at times these boards can’t get out of their own way. Let’s move on and build what seems to be a great restaurant facility. We have given up on Gran Cantina after wasting over $400,000 to get an approval on south st. The Walsh’s are being put in the same situation. Most of the bars and restaurant sales are off everyone I speak to is complaining. If your not a favorite developer of the politicians your out of luck.