Zoning board meetings can be tedious affairs, full of minutiae that can put the strongest caffeinated beverage to the test.
But Morris Township may want to sell tickets for what’s shaping up as a lively session on Jan. 28, 2019. Residents are mounting a campaign to oppose The Regency, a 119-unit luxury apartment complex proposed for the parking lot of the Madison Hotel, near the Convent Station train station.
Residents will strategize at the Woodland Fire House (20 Dwyer Lane) this Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 pm.
“This project will transform the neighborhood we know and love from a quiet low-density residential haven to an urban thoroughfare crawling with cars,” warns the GoFundMe page.
Residents contend The Regency will exacerbate congestion anticipated from the massive residential buildout of the former Honeywell headquarters, new town homes going up behind Liberty Greens, and apartments proposed for the Provident Bank site.
They fear motorists will cut through quiet residential side streets such as Crescent Drive, Shephard Place; and Old Turnpike, Barberry, Canfield, Old Glen, Kitchell, Treadwell and Danforth roads.
The Keller family, which owns the Madison Hotel, seeks a use variance to allow apartments on property zoned for offices and laboratories.
This clashes with the Township’s recently updated zoning master plan and the character of the neighborhood–threatening homeowners’ investments, according to the residents.
“As we are all aware, home values are affected by the increased traffic, decreased air quality, increased noise, dust and pollutants that come with higher density housing,” they say in their funding pitch.
At a packed November 2018 hearing, experts for Timbers Inc., the Kellers’ company, told the zoning board that their proposed L-shaped complex conforms with the master plan.
Moreover, they said, it’s consistent with New Jersey “smart growth” policies that encourage placing apartments near public transportation.
Their project also would include 18 low- and moderate income units, according to the application.
For now, the board is letting the Kellers pursue a two-phase approval process, dealing first with the use variance. Other “bulk variances” pertaining to yard setbacks, height restrictions and parking would come later, as would site plan approval.
Under New Jersey land use laws, developers must clear several hurdles to obtain use variances.
Such permission only may be granted for “special reasons” that are “inherently beneficial” or “promote the general welfare,” Township Planner Paul Phillips explained in a report.
Applicants also must refute any “negative criteria,” proving that a use variance won’t pose a “substantial detriment to the public good” or undermine local zoning laws, Phillips has noted.
The planner has suggested the Kellers provide density comparisons to other Township housing developments, and to transit projects in other suburban areas.
Phillips also wants the Kellers to supply a traffic study, along with more details about shared parking between the hotel and apartments. If the owners someday wish to subdivide their property, the parking arrangement could require another use variance, the planner has advised.