A developer has trimmed the size of an apartment project proposed for the corner of South and DeHart streets, and offered to add environmental features and artwork.
Instead of layering four stories and 26 apartments above existing retailers, owner Joseph Milelli now is suggesting three new floors and 22 units. Two of those units would be penthouses on the roof.
The number of affordable units also would be shaved, from four units to three.
Project attorney Frank Vitolo pitched these changes at Wednesday’s virtual meeting of the Morristown zoning board, which only received drafts of the revisions hours earlier.
Vitolo said the changes attempted to satisfy board concerns from prior meetings, and he sought members’ feedback before returning with formalized plans.
Ground-level tenants 23 South Boutique, J.C. Reiss Optician, Pure Pita, and the Laboratory Hair Studio, and the Laundromat bar in the basement, still are anticipated to remain at the site.
The project at 23-27 South St. requires variances for density and height among other things. It’s scheduled for another hearing on Feb. 3, 2021.
Proposed changes include:
- A “bump out” to create more sidewalk space.
- A rain garden along the extended sidewalk, and planters on floors two and four and the roof, to reduce water runoff.
- Electricity purchased from a wind energy company.
- Beautification of an alley wall with a mural commissioned by nonprofit Morris Arts, where Vitolo serves as a co-president.
Counting the basement bar, the revised project would be five stories, on a parcel zoned for four, said project Planner Michael Tobia.
With fewer apartments, the project would be required to provide three affordable units instead of four, said Vitolo, citing town zoning. Board Planner Greer Patras questioned that interpretation.
Applicants seeking zoning variances must prove benefits to the community, added board member James Bednarz, who characterized these changes as “baby steps.”
“But baby steps, when you add them up, equal an adult step,” Vitolo said.
“You don’t want me to start adding up variances, do you?” countered Bednarz, the board’s former chairman.
He voiced concerns that the meeting’s format could be construed as encouraging the developer, compromising the board.
Steve Pylypchuk, the new chairman, said he purposely limited members to questions only–no statements–to avoid perceived conflicts.
Wednesday’s 80-minute session marked the first meeting for newly appointed members Anthony Murphy and Oliver Starnes. They replaced Charles Hovis and Chris Hayes, who did not seek reappointment.
Murphy and Starnes said they reviewed recordings of prior meetings to familiarize themselves with the application. Board member Elisabeth Wall recused herself.
During the public portion, caller Kristin Ace requested relocation of a proposed tree planting to a spot with better sunlight. Vitolo promised to meet with the town Shade Tree Commission, which Ace chairs.