‘Green Crossing’ condos face headwinds at Morristown planning board; members hear update on county courthouse

Architect Robert Waldron explains alterations to the proposed Green Crossing condo project, March 28, 2024. Photo by Joe McLaughlin.


By Joe McLaughlin

A pair of projects that would significantly reshape parcels near the heart of Morristown took center stage before the planning board on Thursday.

Architectural rendering of proposed Market Street/Macculloch Avenue ‘Green Crossing’ condos, Feb. 22, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Green Crossing LLC, a 17-unit condo building with ground-floor retail proposed for Market Street and Macculloch Avenue, got a cool reception at its second hearing.

Later, the board discussed its negligible power to influence the design of a 119,000-square-foot Morris County courthouse on Schuyler Place, which was approved by the county last September.

The board also heard continuing testimony on plans by Jersey Central Power & Light to improve its substation on Ridgedale Avenue.

For Green Crossing, architect Robert Waldron outlined a series of minor changes made to the plan since its introduction last month.

Several board members questioned the aesthetics of the project, most notably the use of a light tan brick for the exterior, which Waldron described as “very residential.”

“When I look at this, I could easily see a sign ‘Acme Industries’ across the top. To me, it looks like a factory,” said board Chair Joe Stanley. “It doesn’t look residential to me.”

Mayor Tim Dougherty concurred: “There’s a lot of different architecture in this town. The lighter brick tends to be more institutional — more hospital-esque, more school-esque — not residential.”

Additional discussion focused on the project’s location at the seams of various districts, including the town Historic District with its Victorian-era homes. When pressed, Waldron said he had not discussed the project with Morristown’s Historic Preservation Commission.

“Don’t you think that might have been a good idea, considering it’s a historical area you’re butting right up against?” Stanley said.

The project is planned for an oddly shaped parcel and would replace three structures — the former Hoeffner’s butcher shop, a small house on Market Street and a former gas station on Macculloch.

Plans feature 988 square feet of retail space and 525 square feet of business space on the ground floor. Three of the 17 units would be designated as affordable.

Among other concerns, town Planner Phil Abramson asked why some affordable units have fewer bathrooms than market-rate units. And he pointed out that a common terrace provided sightlines into the bedroom of an affordable unit. Waldron said that could be addressed through landscape buffering.

“I don’t think this community is in the business of putting up compromised affordable housing units,” Abramson said in response.


Also at the meeting, the board voted 5-0 to memorialize proceedings related to Morris County’s controversial plans for an $85 million, eight-story courthouse.

Revised rendering of proposed Morris County Courthouse lobby, Sept. 13, 2023. Image courtesy of the Morris County Commissioners.

The county commissioned, designed and approved plans for the new courthouse on Schuyler Place without contacting anyone in Morristown, though the county had no legal obligation to do so.

When county representatives presented finalized plans in January, board members registered their overwhelming objections to the design, which they feel is colossal and out of character for the town.

Revised rendering of proposed Morris County Courthouse, Sept. 13, 2023. Image courtesy of the Morris County Commissioners.

“This resolution is to memorialize what we spoke about at that meeting,” Dougherty said.

“This courthouse is not consistent with the town’s master plan. Everything we put in here, all the comments from the planning board, are falling on deaf ears. They’re not taking any of our considerations or recommendations into account.”

Dougherty added that he will speak to the town’s attorneys next week, though it is unlikely Morristown has any legal recourse.

Since the county’s presentation of Jan. 25, 2024, Morristown has hired an architect with experience in large-scale projects to review the courthouse design.

Mayor Tim Dougherty, left, asks architect Francis Cooke for precise height of proposed courthouse. Morristown planning board, Jan. 25, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Morris County commissioners met with Morristown’s administration on Wednesday. At that session, the town asked the county to reconsider the courthouse’s triangular three-story foyer and other design elements that made the structure “unnecessarily intimidating,” including “lines that felt like prison bars,” according to Abramson.

The planner continued: “They said the construction drawings were 100 percent complete and that they were willing to do small things … but I guess scale is in the eye of the beholder. So we’ll see what happens.”

Planning board Chairman Joe Stanley, pictured on Jan. 4, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Construction for the project will eliminate a 43-year-old easement used by the nearby Grand Café for deliveries and trash removal. Abramson said he has been in touch with the restaurant, which was established by Irish immigrants, but the county has not addressed its concerns.

“I hoped the county would’ve been better neighbors, but they clearly aren’t,” Stanley said.

Conversely, JCP&L was praised by Dougherty for collaborating with the town on plans to improve the company’s substation on Ridgedale Avenue. Revised landscaping was presented by landscape architect Dave Lustberg of Montclair-based Arterial, LLC.

An architect’s view from Ridgedale Avenue of the JCP&L substation, with proposed landscaping modifications, March 28, 2024. Photo by Joe McLaughlin

The revised plan condensed a separate entrance and exit into a single, two-way access driveway. That change enabled the creation of a lawn and a pocket park on Ridgedale Avenue.

The board also discussed various styles of screening that would shield the substation from passersby. Screening would consist of a six-foot brick base and another 12- to 14 feet made from metal mesh or wood paneling.

“JCP&L has invested a lot of money in Morristown, and this brings to another level what they’re willing to do to work with the town to make this project as palatable as possible,” Dougherty said.

The utility has appeared several times before the board on this application. A vote on the substation is anticipated at the April 25 meeting.

Various materials that could be used to screen the JCP&L substation from passersby, March 28, 2024. Photo by Joe McLaughlin
Modified plans for the JCP&L substation that include a single driveway and new lawn area, March 28, 2024. Photo by Joe McLaughlin.

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  1. I ran that gas station for 13 years. I guess they cleaned up the ground where the tanks and especially where the pumps where. But did anyone check the ground behind the building? When I first took over the oil company came in to line the inside of the tanks. Which if they chose to do instead of replacing, they had to do it every 5 years and could only do it 3 times. They only did it once. They took the contaminated dirt they dug up and put it behind the building on a big piece of plastic they laid down. Now after all these years of rain it may be washed clean and down the storm sewer drain behind the building. But I think someone should check!
    I remember seeing the guy that serviced the filters on the pumps unscrew them and let them drain into the ground.

  2. @Bobrow – “Master of the Obvious” – thanks for your usual worthless input without creative solutions.

  3. Show up at the County meeting on April 10th (virtual or in person) and share your concerns. Hope to see you there. “Mtowngrl”, I don’t always agree with where we spend our money in town but an architect to push back on this inappropriate proposed building is a good investment.

  4. Sorry to say, it looks to me like an ocean-going cruise vessel. I hope it doesn’t capsize! Seriously, anyone in Morristown remember the Flagship shopping venue on Rte 22???

  5. Who is the Architect that Morristown hired to review the County design? And how much are the taxpayers paying them?

  6. That’s even uglier than headquarters plaza or the monstrosity on Dumont behind the old post office. It’s void of architectural balance. A box with openings. That’s it.