By Marion Filler
The main event–a 90-unit development on Cory Road–was carried Thursday by the Morristown planning board.
But a mixed-use building on a narrow Speedwell Avenue lot got the board’s unanimous blessing, and a doughnut shop/apartment house proposed for a sliver of Morris Street inched closer to the finish line.
“It works for the best purpose of the zoning plan,” board member Stefan Armington said of Speedwell LLC’s proposal at 146-148 Speedwell Ave.
An unoccupied building on the 48-by-200-foot parcel will be demolished to make way for two retail units on the ground floor and six apartments on the second.
Board member Debra Gottsleben thought the project was “as good a plan as any you can put on a very narrow, constrained lot in an area that is very, very built up already.”
“The benefits outweigh the detriments,” added Mayor Tim Dougherty. “It’s a good re-investment on the property. I think it will work.”
The lot is next door to the office of Dr. Bernard Davidoff. The applicant has obtained easements to share driveways, and will make them one-way to ameliorate the flow of traffic.
Drivers who snake down the narrow driveway of Rago’s Shoe Repair to any of the adjacent buildings — including Davidoff’s office and the proposed structure — can attest to the tortuous access.
By qualifying for parking credits with two electric vehicle spots, the applicant managed to meet the required minimum of 15 parking spaces behind the building.
Large trucks never were able to utilize the existing driveways, so move-ins will have to be managed with smaller vehicles. Board Engineer Charles Carley requested the “blessing of the Fire Marshal” to ascertain emergency vehicle access. The Shade Tree Commission also must be consulted about replacement of a tree slated for removal behind the building.
Next, the Planning Board heard an ongoing proposal for vacant 25-by-65-foot property–a total of .06 acre– on Morris Street across from the Morristown Post Office.
Michael Dey, principal of Centurian Development LLC and owner of Fatty’s Restaurant, which was displaced by the M Station roundabout, is looking for a comeback just a few doors down.
Dey is proposing a three-story building with Sugarlips Doughnuts, owned by Dey’s sister, relocating from Madison to the ground floor. Dey envisions two apartments on the second floor, and his own residence on the third.
“It’s been an evolution of feedback,” said Dey. “We’ve been working for two-and-one-half years to come up with something that is as “delightful” inside as well outside, he said.
“We’re seeing large, faceless corporations buying everything up and putting up huge buildings. But this, in my opinion, is old-school development. This is the type of development that builds communities with a family business at the bottom floor and the family living upstairs.”
Negotiating the logistics has not been easy — a sloped lot backs up to a retaining wall and the Presbyterian Church cemetery, on an extremely narrow ribbon of land. The plan now includes retaining walls of varying heights, a narrow walkway on one side of the building, and trash receptacles on the other, screened from view by gates.
Dey and architect Joe Marchese have come a long way with the plans. But Morris County still must approve connections to municipal water and sewer. No lighting plan has been submitted. Four required parking spots reportedly exist, but no one knew exactly where they were.
Technical difficulties interfered with the presentation of floor plans and elevations. Town Planner Phil Abramson expressed a desire for “improved visuals at the next meeting,” something better than line drawings. Nevertheless, he liked what he saw.
“I’m really excited about this building” said Abramson. “But I think they should come back with a fully tightened up application.”
The planner said he shares Dey’s sentiments. “I yearn for the days of old-school builders coming in and building 28-foot-wide buildings in Morristown…we don’t have this too often.”
The hearing is scheduled to continue next month, along with the Cory Road application.
Great little building for that spot. Gourmet donut shop there would do excellent I’m sure. Besides the usual traffic, those two office buildings next door would be ordering trays of them for their meetings.