Turtle Squared: Morristown board endorses more apartments for parking lot

Aerial rendering of proposed 'Turtle Two' apartments in Morristown, Oct. 12, 2022. Screenshot by Kevin Coughlin
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Turtle One will be getting a companion.

On Wednesday the Morristown zoning board unanimously endorsed “Turtle Two,” a three-story, 28-apartment building that will mirror Turtle Road Commons, approved in 2015 and later dubbed “Turtle One.”

Technically, the board authorized preparation of an approval resolution, scheduled for another vote next month. Among likely conditions is a requirement for the Silverman Group, the developer, to double the number of new trees, to 16.

Turtle Two will sit near Turtle One just off Turtle Road, in a parking lot described by project Planner Michael Tobia as “a big ugly slab of macadam” behind offices at 161-163 Madison Ave.

Morristown zoning board nears vote after meeting virtually for almost 3 1/2 hours, Oct. 12, 2022. Screenshot by Kevin Coughlin

The board approved Turtle Two’s location last December; assorted variances remained in play at hearings this year.

 

Silverman’s initial November 2020 plans had called for 46 units on four floors. As with Turtle One, the board made a field trip to visualize the parking lot.

As a sweetener, Tobia told the board that Silverman would add a looping sidewalk to the project.

Board member Rachel Blacker said she loves the proposed turf-covered dog park, and how four affordable housing units will be spread throughout the building. Fellow member Anthony Murphy welcomed plans for sidewalks on both sides of the Turtles.

“I think it’s well done. I think it will be nice,” Murphy said of the pending project.

Parking lot where Turtle II apartments are anticipated, Nov. 3, 2021. Screen grab by Marion Filler

New Cingular Wireless PCS LLC (AT&T), meanwhile, must return later this month for at least its fourth virtual hearing on plans to mount antennae atop the former Ambassador apartments on South Street.

Representatives of that project logged into Wednesday’s Zoom session with revised renderings of screens to shield antennae from public view. The updated design was meant to be more aesthetically pleasing than what was proposed initially.

But town planning consultant Phil Abramson and some board members said the presentation was cursory. They want documentation beyond Photo-shopped pictures, including samples of fiberglass screening material, to ensure it matches the building.

Such samples are nearly impossible to provide because every antenna project is custom-designed, countered AT&T attorney Judith Fairweather. Other New Jersey towns with AT&T antennae have accepted company assurances that it will make good on its design promises; there have been no hitches, she said.

Fairweather agreed to return with information about where board members can view the handiwork of AT&T contractors.

A new board member, Kristin Baltadonis, also was sworn in. She fills a vacancy left by the resignation of Beth Wall.  Baltadonis did not vote on Turtle Two. The meeting ran almost three-and-a-half hours.

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