Residents question proposed group home in Morristown Historic District

Two brothers hope to convert this residence in Morristown's Historic District to a group home. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Two brothers are converting this residence in Morristown's Historic District to a shared home. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


Residents of Morristown’s Historic District are objecting to plans to convert a local residence into a home for the developmentally disabled.

“At no time was it ever discussed that affordable housing units would be part of this plan,” resident AnnMarie Manahan told the town council on Tuesday.

Last month the council approved a $100,000 grant from the town’s affordable housing trust fund to Morris Blue, a venture by brothers Nate and Yehuda Diskint. They intended to apply the money toward the purchase of a stately Victorian house on Miller Road, for conversion to an eight-bed “shared home” for people with intellectual disabilities and other special needs.

Two of the units will be set aside for low- and moderate income tenants.

That possibility was not raised a year ago when the Diskints presented their concept to neighbors, Manahan said.

She also raised concerns about the total number of residents, fire escapes and handicapped accessibility, removal of a $25,000 ratable from the tax rolls, long-term oversight of the operation, and how exterior changes may impact aesthetics of “the cornerstone of the Historic District.”

About 40 residents of the neighborhood met earlier this month with Mayor Tim Dougherty, Administrator Jillian Barrick, and town attorneys. Another meeting is set for Nov. 27, 2018.

The council approved the grant by a 5-1 vote in October. Councilwoman Alison Deeb, who represents the Fourth Ward neighborhood, voted no, citing questions about setting a precedent by giving funds to an unproven nonprofit. Councilman David Silva was absent for the vote.

Residents’ concerns, and any suggestions made by the town’s historic preservation commission, can be incorporated into a contract the town is negotiating with the Diskints to finalize the funding, town Attorney Vij Pawar told the council on Tuesday.

Any issues also can be addressed by the town planning board when the Diskints seek site plan approval, Councilman Stefan Armington added.

The Diskints, who did not speak at Tuesday’s council meeting, have said they were inspired to establish Co-home Inc., as they now call the Morris Blue project, by their younger brother Jeremy.

He has Down syndrome, and they said they wished to create a friendly home environment for him and others with similar challenges, in a place handy to transportation and other services.

In other business, the council approved a liquor license transfer from the former Calaloo Café–razed this week to make way for 30 apartments and a restaurant–to the J & K Steakhouse.

The South Street restaurant bought the license from holder Larry Berger for $1 million, according to the town Clerk’s office.

The liquor license for this property--former home of the Calaloo Cafe and Yo & Papa--is being auctioned by the state for unpaid taxes. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
NOW YOU SEE IT… The vacant former home of the Calaloo Cafe and Yo & Papa, next to Morristown town hall, in 2013. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
GONE: The former Calaloo Café has been razed to make way for apartments, Nov. 20, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
…NOW YOU DON’T: The former Calaloo Café has been razed to make way for apartments, Nov. 20, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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  1. The Franklin Corners neighborhood was home to this group home for several years, when they rented an older victorian home on Hill St. They were good tenants and welcome additions to the neighborhood.

    I feel a much greater concern about all the expanding non profits, taking more and more property from our tax rolls and requiring more and more services from Morristown, while paying no taxes. I’m sure the ratable lost as a result of the VNA moving to the corner of James and South while renting their original larger property on Elm St. to another non profit instead of returning it to the tax rolls as promised when receiving their variance for that expansion, was a far greater loss to Morristown taxpayer than the group home. The Mayo Theater is another example, which may benefit some bars and restaurants, certainly strains the Town’s resources, as they deal with the additional traffic and parking needs for a facility which provides no parking.

  2. Many questions arise from the proposed project. Are the other affordable housing projects in the town exempt from property taxes? The proposed property would be exempt from property taxes so the taxpayers would be subsidizing the the project whether or not it contains affordable housing. Could the affordable housing grant be applied to a house that is more affordable than this million-dollar house? The town’s affordable housing trust funds come from developers who don’t want to include affordable housing in their projects. This grant is not for affordable housing but rather an affordable bedroom. There is a difference. The purpose of the project is a group home for the developmentally disabled. The purpose is not to provide affordable housing in general. One might ask why developers are not including affordable housing in their projects.