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.