Morristown council gives preliminary okay to train station apartments

Another depiction of the housing project proposed for behind the Morristown train station. Image courtesy of Dean Marchetto.
Another depiction of the housing project proposed for behind the Morristown train station. Image courtesy of Dean Marchetto.
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Plans for 89 apartments behind the Morristown train station received preliminary council approval on Thursday.

“It’s well designed. I like the fact that it will create more affordable housing apartments,” Council President Toshiba Foster said after the redevelopment ordinance was introduced by a 5-0 vote. Councilmen Stefan Armington and Michael Elms were absent.

Now the project heads to the town planning board for a review on Dec. 6, 2018. On Dec. 13, it’s due back to the council for a public hearing and final vote.

“We’ve waited a long time for this,” town Planner Phil Abramson said. The town earmarked the parking lot behind the train station for redevelopment in 2006.

Attorney John Inglesino, left, and town Planner Phil Abramson field council questions, while town Administrator Jillian Barrick and Mayor Tim Dougherty listen, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Attorney John Inglesino, left, and town Planner Phil Abramson field council questions, while town Administrator Jillian Barrick and Mayor Tim Dougherty listen, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Bijou Properties of Hoboken has a contract to buy the 1.75-acre lot from the Morristown Parking Authority. An L-shaped, five-story structure would include ground-level retail storefronts at each end, and 137 submerged parking spaces.

Sixty-five of those spaces would be available for public use. Presently, NJ Transit has 72 parking spaces. Abramson said the project would create additional on-street parking on Lackawanna Place and Lumber Street.

The planner noted the project is smaller than it might have been; current zoning of the site allows a maximum of six stories and 115 units.

Housing complex proposed for Morristown train station parking lot. Image courtesy of Dean Marchetto
Housing complex proposed for Morristown train station parking lot. Image courtesy of Dean Marchetto

A traffic study may be completed after the project’s approval. Any improvements recommended by the study could be mandated as conditions of a developer’s agreement negotiated prior to construction, said John Inglesino, the town’s redevelopment attorney.

The apartments won’t exacerbate traffic congestion, according to Mayor Tim Dougherty, who attributed weekday snarls to commuters passing through from neighboring towns.

Projects like this one encourage train ridership, Dougherty said. “I’m grateful we have that train station for this type of development. Do I think it will add significant traffic to the center of town? No.”

A handful of people attended the brief session; none spoke during the public portion. The council doubles as the town redevelopment authority.

Councilwoman Alison Deeb asks question about train station project, while Councilman Bob Iannaccone awaits his turn, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Councilwoman Alison Deeb asks question about train station project, while Councilman Bob Iannaccone awaits his turn, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Some 1,800 rail passengers use the station each week, Abramson said. Councilman Robert Iannaccone expressed concerns about the elimination of a bus stop there, but Abramson said nobody uses it.

Thirteen of the apartments will be set aside for low- and moderate income tenants, per a formula in a town ordinance.

Abramson said the town will strive to minimize disruptions to All-County Rental, a business adjoining the lot. He also may explore creation of a train trestle walkway over busy Lafayette Avenue.

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