Roll out the barrel? Not if this Morristown neighborhood can help it

A brewery is proposed for this building on Abbett Avenue in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A brewery is proposed for this building on Abbett Avenue in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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The applicants say their goal is to brew “Revolutionary Beer.”

But their proposed Glenbrook Brewery is sparking a different kind of revolution on Abbett Avenue, where residents have been packing zoning board meetings to voice opposition.

“I don’t want to be breathing beer hops,” Jamie Paul said at Wednesday’s hearing, the third one of the summer.

“I’m tired of where the Second Ward is going for the last 49 years,” added lifelong resident Todd Jones, who cited concerns about over-development and traffic.

Business partners Darren Cregan of Florida and Heath Traver of Morris Plains seek a zoning variance to allow a brewery in a building that now houses Ryan Plumbing.

It’s near residential side streets, and is across Abbett Avenue from a playground named in memory of a local substance abuse counselor, George Gramby.

George Gramby Observance Committee members Stan Prater and Franz Owens and Morris County NAACP President Vanessa Brown were among audience members posing questions on Wednesday.

The applicants sought to dispel fears that their venture would generate the drunken misbehavior that has riled residents near Morristown’s downtown bars over the years.

“This is a tasting room, not a bar,” testified Cregan, a graduate of the Morristown Beard School.

“It’s a retail establishment where you can sample the product,” echoed Craig Peregoy, a traffic consultant hired by the brewery team.

Nearly 500 people have signed an online petition supporting the application.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Hover / click on images for captions:

Applicant Heath Traver, seated in white shirt, listens to question from resident John Hairston at Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Applicant Darren Cregan, left, listens to his lawyer, Larry Calli, at Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Former brewer Bill Herlicka fields question at Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Resident Renee Jones speaks at Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Board Chairman Michael Schmidt, center, comments at Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Resident Franz Owens questions architect Jeff Rawding, left,at Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A large audience attended Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Board Attorney David Brady peruses plans, while board Secretary James Campbell, left, listens to testimony at Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Traffic consultant Craig Peregoy, left, and project attorney Larry Calli at Glenbrook Brewery zoning board hearing, Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A brewery is proposed for this building on Abbett Avenue in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Visitors to breweries usually don’t stay longer than 45 minutes, Cregan said. In response to public questions, however, he acknowledged nothing would prevent a patron from staying for hours.

And although TVs in the brewery mostly would show videos pegged to Morristown’s Revolutionary War history, Traver could not rule out showing sports occasionally.

Zoning board members tittered when Cregan explained how TVs would “promote the theme of our bar.” He quickly corrected himself: “Our tasting room.”

There is no danger of pressurized fermentation tanks exploding, William Herlicka assured the board. The New Hampshire-based equipment vendor and former brewer said a special “condensed stack” venting system would minimize odors, and the operation would be silent to neighbors.

Glenbrook Brewery would produce a maximum of 30 barrels of beer weekly, mostly for distribution to area restaurants and taverns, according to the applicants.

The facility would lack capacity for greater production; Traver told board Chairman Michael Schmidt he would agree to a stipulation requiring board approval for any expansion.

The public would be invited inside the brewery to taste samples, drink pints or buy and refill “growlers,” at prices ranging from around $5 to $30.

Brewing would occur on Mondays and Tuesdays. Tastings would be scheduled from 4 pm to 10 pm from Wednesday through Friday, from noon to 10 pm on Saturday, and from noon to 6 pm on Sunday.

The brewery would have 14 parking spaces, and the 3,600-square-foot business legally could accommodate up to 46 patrons, according to witnesses for the applicants.

Peregoy, the traffic consultant, monitored traffic at the site on two evenings during the winter. He estimated the brewery would generate 21 peak-hour vehicle trips on Fridays and 27 peak-hour trips on Saturdays. That is far below the 100 new trips that would be considered “significant” under state guidelines, he said.

Project attorney Lawrence Calli also presented testimony by architect Jeff Rawding, who said the parking should be adequate.

Mayor Tim Dougherty attended Wednesday’s meeting but made no formal comments. Later, he noted the area is transitioning from light industrial to residential, and added the town’s recently updated zoning master plan allows breweries downtown, in the central business district “where it should be.”

“I’ll stand with the residents,” Dougherty said in an interview.

Another brewery got okayed last year for a storefront on Morris Street. Partners of that project never proceeded.

The Glenbrook Brewery hearing is scheduled to resume on Nov. 7, 2018.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Please. “Tasting Room,” “Craft Brewery,” whatever. This is a place where people will go to get drunk near residential housing. It’s not needed, and I don’t blame the citizens of the neighborhood being vehemently against it one bit.

  2. The article seems to omit key facts regarding the existing permitted uses of the property or what exactly the variance is seeking.

  3. I’ve watched a variety of fads come and go in Morristown, including trampolines, hi fas, space shoes and all sorts of fads. The businesses that featured them would close, after being the rage for for a while. Sadly, when those uses are granted variances, that use becomes a right that continues with the property and results in often unanticipated uses not appropriate for the location. Past mistakes are already evident on Abbett Ave.

    Our zoning boards should never overlook the negative impact of permitting a drinking establishment pretending to be something else by labeling drinking as tasting and combining it with what is essentially an industrial use, no longer permitted in this zone and claiming somehow that if you combine two uses not permitted her into one it should be OK. It is not OK to manipulate the law that way.

    Morristown neighborhoods are as important as our history, in maintaining a vibrant attractive community. We can’t afford to ignore them, in favor of some individuals self serving definition of use.The neighbors are correct in their opposition and deserve the Town’s support.

  4. Good for the residents of Morristown who have been packing zoning board meetings to voice opposition to a proposed brewery on Abbott Ave that would require a zoning variance.

    “I’ll stand with the residents,” mayor Dougherty said in an interview.
    Wow, the mayor is supporting Morristown residents!….hope he will continue his support of Morristown residents and their concerns about over-development and traffic in our town.
    Would also be new and wonderful if he would take a stand and support the residents of Morristown on the issue of proposed storage units on Morris Ave. On July 16, 2016 One of the largest crowds seen at a Morristown zoning workshop came out Monday to learn about a proposed storage center. Since then, the proposed storage units on Morris Street has had many public meetings for the last several years where many residents have come out to argue that the development didn’t meet the town’s plans to make this particular stretch of Morris Street into a residential gateway to the community. Zoning revisions would also be needed to accommodate the proposed use. source: MorristownGreen

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