Morristown council breaks more Sanofi news, and questions supervision at new special needs apartments

The renovated building at 21 South St., home to Wells Fargo, April 29, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


The Morristown council solved one mystery on Tuesday and pondered another. Both involved developer Hampshire Realty.

Mystery solved: 21 South St.  This remodeled Hampshire building at the corner of DeHart Street, which also houses a Wells Fargo branch, is where the French pharma giant Sanofi will move its regional Consumer Healthcare operations from Bridgewater.

Mystery remaining: Why did Hampshire choose Cohome Inc., an unlicensed operator, instead of ArcMorris, to oversee 14 special needs units in its new Max on Morris apartments on Morris Street?


Sanofi’s plans to move from Somerset County and lease 260,000 square feet at the M Station development at Morris and Spring streets leaked out last week. But corporate and town officials were mum about a second Morristown location, where approximately 17,000 square feet will be leased.

Council Vice President Nathan Umbriac, who works for Sanofi, let that cat out of the bag during Tuesday’s half-hour hybrid meeting.

Morristown Council Vice President Nathan Umbriac addresses hybrid council meeting, March 14, 2023. Screenshot by Kevin Coughlin

“I’m obviously excited. It’s great for the community, it’s great for Sanofi as an organization to be in a great downtown like Morristown,” Umbriac said.

Mayor Tim Dougherty, who was vacationing when the M Station news broke in Bridgewater (“we couldn’t put a cork in it”), told the council the Sanofi deal, which is bringing 1,900 jobs, was more than a year in the making.

“It’s a huge win for Morristown. It’s a great company, and an unbelievable investment in our downtown,” the mayor said.


There was some consternation about who will manage Max on Morris apartments designated for adults with special needs.

“I’m very disappointed that the Arc didn’t get this,” said Bill Byrne, an advocate for people with disabilities who has worked closely with ArcMorris. Established in 1952, the nonprofit runs 26 state-licensed programs in Morris County, according to its website.

Hampshire attorney Frank Vitolo, reached by Morristown Green after Tuesday’s meeting, said he could not discuss the special needs situation because a conflict precluded his involvement with it.

Bill Byrne, an advocate for persons with disabiities, addresses hybrid council meeting, March 14, 2023. Screenshot by Kevin Coughlin

“I can’t comment because I represent both Nate and Hampshire at Morris Street,” said the lawyer, who worked pro bono for Cohome founder Nate Diskint during a year of zoning board hearings involving a Cohome group home for developmentally disabled adults in Morristown’s Historic District.

Diskint could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Town officials, though generally pleased with Max on Morris, said they had pitched The Arc  in discussions with Hampshire. Failing to nail down this oversight was an oversight, Councilman Stefan Armington told Byrne.

“Unfortunately, Billy, that was my fault. I was the council president when the agreement for the Morris Street apartments was put in place. And I did not include the requirement that the operational body had to be licensed. So I’m sorry about that.”

Indeed, every other element of the 85-apartment Max on Morris project at 171-175 Morris St. appears to have received intense municipal scrutiny, starting with a proposed self-storage facility, shot down amidst vociferous public opposition years ago.

Morris on Max —formerly known as The Revolution, and before that, the L/W (Live/Work)–under construction on Morris Street, April 29, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

For the apartments, the planning board questioned everything down to the type and shades of brick. The council granted Hampshire a controversial tax break known as a PILOT (“Payments In Lieu of Taxes”) after extracting a pledge that 14 of 18 affordable units would be special needs housing. Up to 28 persons with special needs may live in those 14 apartments.

On Tuesday, the council even voted unanimously to ensure Hampshire pays $100,000 for public art at the site.

While Cohome was not mentioned by name, council members and the mayor expressed concerns.

“I think on the operational side, we truly need an experienced operator, and I’m a little concerned about that,” said Councilman Robert Iannaccone, who had proposed the special needs housing. It’s within easy walking distance of the downtown, and of jobs at Morristown Medical Center, he noted.

Iannaccone said he was “very disappointed” Hampshire did not follow up with The Arc. State-licensed supervision is important, he said, because it helps ensure special needs housing is not reserved only for the wealthy.

Licensure also brings bi-annual state inspections, and associated services — psychiatrists, social workers, work preceptors — to help special needs residents “integrate not just in the building, but in the community,” said the councilman. He vowed “to keep a very close eye on the operation.”

Dougherty, who supported the redevelopment project with the planning board, suggested leadership changes at ArcMorris during the pandemic may have caused some confusion. He hailed Max on Morris as “a very nice building,” and said the town cannot dictate Hampshire’s choice of special needs supervisors. But he echoed Iannaccone’s call for vigilance.

“We couldn’t force the developer to do what only we wanted,” the mayor said. “He didn’t break any laws. But we will keep a close eye on it.”

During a year of zoning board hearings — Cohome finally got permission in January to convert a cottage into a caretaker’s apartment at its Miller Road group home — Diskint acknowledged Cohome is not state-licensed. But he said its service providers are, and he testified that Cohome screens its help according to state standards. The group home opened in 2019.

Cohome also seeks approvals to erect a residential/commercial building on Maple Avenue for people with intellectual disabilities.

First dubbed “The LW,” for “Live/Work,” and later called The Revolution, Max on Morris soon will host its grand opening. Monthly rents of studios to two-bedroom units are listed from $2,478, to $5,680, on


Fee hikes for the Burnham Pool were approved unanimously. Resident family badges are increasing from $250 to $265. Couples will pay $230, up from $215. Adult fees are rising from $155 to $165 for the summer season. For youths, it’s $125, a $10 hike. Senior rates are going from $59 to $65. All the rates are here.

And the mayor presented a Women’s History Month proclamation to town Administrator Jillian Barrick.

“What you’ve brought to this town over the last seven years is unprecedented,” Dougherty said.

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  1. Thank you AJ for your accurate reply. We’re living in the dark ages to not acknowledge the new approach to disabled adults living independent lives. Of course, those of us in the field are aware that DDD ( the state agency ) will be involved. Once again – would be nice for those speaking to do a little research work before they have such strong negative opinions. They can also reach out and ask us. Again, thank you for your response.

  2. To Jeff. I work in a regional hub for a large corporation. We rarely have people traveling and needing hotel rooms. Especially since Covid where video meetings are the norm. Also, there are many hotels in the immediate area. I believe in supply/demand. If someone sees an opportunity, it will happen.

  3. Connor, I am not sure how often the Hyatt is full, but it does fill up. Apparently there was enough business to justify the Market Street hotel – and that was before these big projects. I would think with thousands of additional downtown workers they’re going to need more space.

  4. @Andrew – Sad if that’s the case! Would’ve looked great and been rented out to Sanofi or another easily.

    @ Jeff – not sure. Is the Hyatt usually somewhat full?

    And can we get going on the parking deck behind the Grasshopper as well? MPA shared the same hesitancy during the pandemic. Time to revisit that. This way 55 Morris Street can get approval to expand upward and use those parking spaces for employees of another big company looking for prime class A space on the Green. Adding 2-3 modern stories on that building, with its length, they should get about 60,000 sq. ft. of prime space. Big enough for a major company.

  5. Connor, when 21 South’s remodel broke ground, the pandemic was in full swing. The future of office space was still very much in flux, which is probably why Hampshire trimmed the project back.

  6. Thousands of new employees downtown. Again I ask: What about hotel space? Is this not a concern?
    There should be several hotel projects in the works.

  7. Sharon – I’ve worked in the disability space for over 20 years. “Licensing” is a misnomer. It doesn’t mean what I think that you think it means. Besides, the industry has moved beyond the traditional operator-licensed setting to promote more self-directed options that give residents more control over their lives and services. Pretty much everyone with a disabled adult child will tell you they want choice. That’s really how we protect these “vulnerable lives.” Also, any care provider operating in the supportive units will have to be a DDD-approved (that’s the supervising state agency). Wish MorristownGreen would do a little research before spreading misinformation.

  8. Wonder why 21 South St never added those two additional floors during reno as was originally designed and approved?

  9. There was only 10K sf remaining in 21 South. Is Hampshire moving there office in there to way room for the 17K sf?

  10. The PILOT program seems to be granted frequently to the new commercial buildings. Why? How do the Morristown’s tax paying citizens benefit?
    Pandora’s box is opened once again by permitting an unlicensed person oversee the special needs segment. This owner blatantly disregarded Morristown’s rules RE:use of extra building and persistently won. Now you support his unlicensed engagement and employment.
    Revise, revisit, review these decisions as vulnerable lives are at stake.