Morristown council rescinds $100K grant to group home

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
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Now you see it. Now you don’t.

The Morristown council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to rescind a $100,000 grant to Co-home Inc., a new group home in the town’s Historic District.

Last October, the governing body agreed to allocate money from the town’s affordable housing trust fund to a nonprofit converting a Victorian house on Miller Road to an eight-bed home for the developmentally disabled.

But the deal came with stipulations that apparently were onerous to the nonprofit, previously known as Morris Blue Inc.

“There was correspondence sent stating that the council wanted certain items in the agreement that were non-negotiable. And if they’re not willing to agree to it, the council at the next meeting will move to rescind the award. And there was no response. The resolution was placed on the agenda,” town Attorney Vij Pawar explained.

Town attorney Vij Pawar discusses rescinding of group home grant with town council; town Administrator Jillian Barrick and Mayor Tim Dougherty listen, July 16, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Sticking points in the town’s contract with Co-home included questions about the nonprofit’s funding, mortgage and insurance, said town Administrator Jillian Barrick.

A big item of disagreement was the town’s insistence on having a member on Co-home’s board, Barrick acknowledged.

“That was one of the things that became a question,” she said.

Nate Diskint, right, with his brother Jeremy, Nov. 27, 2018. Photo by Marion Filler.
Nate Diskint, right, with his brother Jeremy, who will be a resident of the Co-home Inc. group home.  Photo by Marion Filler, Nov. 27, 2018.

It was not immediately clear what impact losing the grant would have on the project. The home already has been purchased for $1.1 million.

Nate Diskint, a partner in the project with his brother, Yehuda Diskint, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Council members Stefan Armington and David Silva were absent Tuesday. So were Michael Elms and Hiliari Davis, but they voted by phone.

Part of the original deal with the town required Co-home to set aside two rooms in the 5,400-square-foot house as affordable housing units. The council said these would count as four credits toward Morristown’s obligation to provide housing for people with low- and moderate incomes.

A Far Hills developer that intends to build 28 apartments on Schuyler Place has expressed interest in transferring two units of its affordable housing obligation there to Co-home, via a payment to the group home.

Barrick said that’s a matter for the town zoning board to decide. That board has  questioned other aspects of the apartment proposal.

Councilwoman Alison Deeb poses a question, July 16, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Councilwoman Alison Deeb, whose Fourth Ward includes the Historic District, where some residents have opposed the group home, cast the only vote against the town grant back in the fall.

At the time, she cited management problems at a former group home operated by another company, along with concerns about removing a $25,000 ratable from the tax rolls and setting a questionable precedent by backing an unproven nonprofit.

Co-home Inc. is not licensed by the state, though the Diskints say their third-party service providers will be.

Before voting on Tuesday to rescind the grant, Deeb asked why the matter had been discussed in a closed session at the prior council meeting. Pawar told her it was because the contract still was being negotiated at that point.

The Diskint brothers also are exploring opening a group home in Montclair.

MORE ABOUT CO-HOME INC.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. To follow on Linda Carrington’s response, the Zoning Board hearing for this case is today, July 17. Linda had a typo.

  2. In response to “Barrick said that’s a matter for the town zoning board to decide,” The zoning board attorney recently gave a different interpretation. Please attend the zoning board hearing, July 16, to hear Appeal # 2448 to learn more. I am recused from hearing the appeal.

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