Morristown residents try to deep-six self-storage, again

More than 100 people packed the Morristown council chamber, May 22, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
More than 100 people packed the Morristown council chamber, May 22, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Many agreed that the new façade looks sharp.

But it’s just that — a façade, according to residents who packed Tuesday’s Morristown council meeting to oppose the latest iteration of Hampshire Realty’s proposed self-storage facility for 175 Morris Street.

“Please do not build a storage facility and pretend it is a cultural asset,” said resident Linda Carrington.

Frank Vitolo, the project’s attorney, hailed the revamped design by architect Dean Marchetto as “the most unique and beautiful self-storage space that’s ever been built in the state.”

Revised Morris Street self-storage proposal, May 22, 2018. Rendering courtesy of Dean Marchetto
Revised Morris Street self-storage proposal, May 22, 2018. Rendering courtesy of Dean Marchetto

Marchetto said the retro brick-loft styling would rank with his cube-like loft apartments opening on DeHart Street, and his triangular Fox Rothschild building, “an iconic landmark as you approach the town Green.”

Morristown resident Margret Brady proposed storage center is wrong use for Morris Street, May 22, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown resident Margret Brady proposed storage center is wrong use for Morris Street, May 22, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

But Morris Street also is a gateway to Morristown, and one resident after another raised familiar concerns about the scale of the four-story structure, and moving vans clogging a busy two-lane street, and the possibility of undesirables loitering at the gated, 700-storage unit facility.

“I don’t care how you dress it up. It’s the scale, it’s the size, it’s the use,” said longtime Franklin Corners resident Margret Brady.

Architect Dean Marchetto heard praise for his design. Yet it didn't sway residents to accept a storage facility on Morris Street, May 22, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Architect Dean Marchetto heard praise for his design. Yet it didn’t sway residents to accept a storage facility on Morris Street, May 22, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The proposed size has been reduced by about 6 percent, to 98,000 square feet, while an attached art studio would be enlarged by about 800 square feet, to 3,500 square feet.

Tom Werder of Morris Arts took some heat from the audience when he suggested on-street parking would suffice for special events, during “off-peak” hours.

The developer needs a council rezoning to exceed a three-story height limit, and to place a storage center on the former auto repair site, which is zoned for business uses that include a theater, retail, offices and garden apartments.

Revised Morris Street self-storage proposal, May 22, 2018. Rendering courtesy of Dean Marchetto
Revised Morris Street self-storage proposal, May 22, 2018. Rendering courtesy of Dean Marchetto

Traffic engineer Justin Taylor presented charts indicating a storage facility would generate far fewer peak-hour vehicles than any of the uses allowed under current zoning.

Morristown resident Tim Reuther suggests a trades center instead of self-storage, May 22 , 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown resident Tim Reuther suggests a trades center instead of self-storage, May 22 , 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Resident Tim Reuther suggested the property would be better suited for a school to teach trades. Another resident proposed turning the whole thing into an arts center, with suites for editing video.

Carrington said at least seven storage facilities already are within a short drive of this location.

The site adjoins new apartments, and sits within an area designated for redevelopment by the town.

Morristown Redevelopment Counsel John Inglesino, left, and Hampshire Realty spokesman Frank Vitolo, of Riker Danzig, May 22, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Redevelopment Counsel John Inglesino, left, and Hampshire Realty spokesman Frank Vitolo, of Riker Danzig, May 22, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

John Inglesino, the town’s Redevelopment attorney, emphasized that town officials could work with the developer to craft virtually any outcome they desire.

Vitolo said this was his seventh public presentation on the storage project over two years. The next move is up to the council, he said.

“It’s their redevelopment project. They’ll tell us” what’s next, he said.

Storage center presentation, May 22, 2018, video by Kevin Coughlin:

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Margret, I’m not sure your concern is precise. Are you saying the first responders need this site in order to keep the town safe, and if they don’t have this one, they cannot do their jobs? Seems like a comment to solicit an emotional response. And yes, traffic happens in growing urban centers. Perhaps if we get more companies in town, people can live and walk/bike to their office instead of using a car.

  2. As time goes by, I have had the opportunity to view this site from many angles and the proposed use as well. Just yesterday, as I sat in another traffic jam at that intersection and thought about the new transit village housing project proposed nearby, I wondered how additional development on that site could be accommodated. Meanwhile all the sites once proposed since the 1975 study, are no longer available. This is one of the few lots available to serve that much needed purpose. It could also serve as a community center far more accessible than the current location. The existing firehouse, built in haste, in order to provide for the construction of Headquarters Plaza, was determined unsuitable many years ago. How long should the town wait, as we add more and more development and projects for them to protect to their work load, without considering the needs of the fire, police and EMT services so necessary to keep all our citizens safe.

  3. How about some modern office space for this lot? 7 or 8 stories with underground parking and shops at street level. Get 1-2 mid size companies in there so people can start to live, work, and play in the town without having to commute with cars. Due to the topography of the green to this lot, 7 or 8 stories will still be lower than buildings on the green. With the 4 or 5 new housing complexes coming up in town, and a couple new restaurants/bars, I think the live and play part is covered.

  4. We are concerned citizens and most importantly, residents of this area where the proposed storage space would reside and cannot understand why it is still on the planning table. Someone in our town or on Council must be pushing it, otherwise, why are the residents pleas being ignored? It has been opposed to for years now and, as tax paying residents of Morristown, we should be able to be heard and vote against this project.
    As many have provided excellent reasons for it not to move forward, we would appreciate feedback that is has finally been shelved rather than try to move it forward without us knowing it….that is our right. Please provide other options for the space….even a Green Space would be appealing and useable for all residents and visitors.

  5. Why have a master plan and zoning rules if you’re constantly going to be overruling them? Does any sane person think that what the town needs is a self-storage facility? Tacking an ‘arts center’ on is cute, but really disingenuous. This seems to be the pattern in the town – some developer gets a deal on some land, then plows whatever idea they feel best suits them through the council for rezoning. Why do we allow this?

    From the tone of this meeting (and all the others) it’s clear that the decision has been made. When’s the groudbreaking? Why don’t we have the names of the people that own Morris Street 2015 LLC/Ryan LLC and who know who else? Would the ownership bring up complications?

  6. Take an entire Home Depot and squeeze in on that lot. Now you’ve got a building the same size as what they are proposing. No tree, no house, no ANYTHING will be to scale with this MASSIVE building. Wrong use for this lot.

  7. It’s time to start thinking out of the box in our approach to the proposed storage facility on Morris Street.

    The developer rashly assembled the site knowing that it was contaminated and that only a few types of buildings would be permitted at such a location. He is now stuck with it, needs a variance to proceed with his planned project, but is stymied by the regulatory relief needed to proceed and the unyielding resistance of the local residents who rightly consider his concept to be unacceptable. In addition, the delays he has encountered have allowed other – probably less expensive – competitive storage facilities to be built nearby, further lessening the desirability of the project.

    The site needs to be remediated in order that this valuable location can be developed as an asset to the town and to future generations.

    So let’s put our heads together and come up with a win-win solution that will resolve this impasse and build something we can all be proud of.

  8. I am curious if the 2 people who support the self-storage proposal are residents of the area.

  9. Most towns the plan is to get rid of non conforming properties, that’s why master plans are adopted. Morristown does the reverse it encourages non conforming uses, brewery’s, storage units etc. why ????

  10. Imagine a 5000 sq. ft. home and multiply that by 10. That is what the scale of the storage unit is proposed currently. Morris Street is more residential than commercial and who is asking for storage? Not one person at the meeting is in favor of this idea.

  11. John Roderick and J. Ward, whoever you are, I could not disagree with you more. I prefer the facts presented here and at the meeting, to your opinions about the project, that ignore the impact this use would have on the Town and its neighborhoods for many years to come. the

    There are empty warehouse buildings in many places nearby, including Morristown. Rehabilitating those buildings instead of using this opportunity to provide something necessary and important in this part of town, would be a far better solution.

  12. Question to Justin Taylor, the traffic engneer: how did he arrive to his stats? Can the numbers be supported with science? It is very important since this is the only benefit mentioned during presentation of having a storage 500 yards away from the historic Washington Headquarters.

  13. Tuesday night, the town Council provided yet another opportunity, one of many, for the developer to present their proposal for a warehouse on Morris Street. This meeting, it should be noted, was held after the most recent town election. I can’t help but wonder why the mayor has seemed so supportive of this proposal since the very first meeting? Instead, it seems to me that his administration should be leading the way and encouraging council members to follow the redevelopment plan for this area, ie, to follow the town’s Master Plan. The Mayor has the responsibility to enforce the provisions of the Charter, town ordinances, and all applicable general laws. and to make recommendations to the Council on such matters as he believes are in the public interest.

    It is obvious from the numbers of folks who came out to protest once again against storage units being plopped in a area of town that is re-emerging as a strong residential area that storage units are not an appropriate use. That such a use would be detrimental to the area and to our town. The proposed building looks and is commercial; its size, scale, and character are not at all in keeping with Morristown.

    The developer is not entitled to a profit just because he bought the site with storage units in mind…(Who encouraged him to even develop such a proposal?) It’s not the residents’ fault or their responsibility to see that the developer makes a profit. Residents want a project that brings value to living and working in Morristown. A project that adds to the architectural heritage of the town. Our town already has enough giant new ugly buildings that are not appropriate to the character of Morristown. The historic character of our town is rapidly disappearing due regrettably to the administration and its boards’ apparent disregard and and lack of respect for residential Morristown. Development can be good but we have seen entirely too much intense overdevelopment. The area in question is close to the Green and to public transportation. It offers many options that fall within the guidelines of the Master Plan. The developer has a unique opportunity to contribute to the residential neighborhood, a walkable neighborhood, that serves as a major gateway to historic Morristown.

  14. If you want to see artists’ studios, go to Mana Contemporary in Jersey City or the Fabrica de Arte in Havana. If you can’t go in person, visit them online to see the real deal. Also on Facebook
    http://manacontemporary.com/
    http://www.fac.cu/ (art factory in Havana)
    Both places bring in a lot of sightseers who then dine nearby.
    Established in a vast former tobacco warehouse, Mana Contemporary unites artist studios, residencies, exhibition spaces, and cultural programming. Mana celebrates the creative process and functions as a community-led hub for artists of all disciplines—from painters, sculptors, dancers, and photographers, to virtual reality and digital-art technologists.
    Throughout its seven floors, Mana offers private, semi-private, and open-plan workspaces for rent.
    To learn more and inquire about availability, contact neshed@manacontemporary.com.

  15. To be honest I like it. This part of Morris st has no action and wouldnt affect anyone in my point of view and makes morristown morr appealing

  16. Completely inappropriate structure to put in an area that needs improvement. How is this still on the menu after 7 public hearings where ALL residents oppose it? Why is this proposal still being shepherded through? No one will benefit other than the developer and the residents stand to lose in so many ways (traffic, aesthetics, safety, property values).

  17. Many thanks for giving your readers an opportunity to see and hear the actual presentation. One rendering even had a suggestion of the New York skyline in the shadows behind it, in reference to the city style and look of this massive building next to lower scale residential development. Not a single picture shows the building next to the actual residential units to its left. It would have been interesting to see how it compares to the nearby Washington Headquarter, in order for the Council to compare how this building ,in order for the Town Council to determine if they want this massive storage facility spelled out in capital letters across the top, to become the most dominant focal point on the street, replacing Washington’s Headquarters,., the Post Office building, the railroad Station, the Schuyler-Hamilton hous and other historic sites, e all currently part of Morris Street. The tacked on artist’s studio, of a different style, is an obvious attempt to trick our residents into believing this project could actually serve the public in this unsuitable location.

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