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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: