Storage center would serve apartment dwellers, architect tells Morristown board

The five-story, 60-foot-tall structure would offer about 300 storage units between 50 and 100 square feet. Screenshot by Joe McLaughlin
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By Joe McLaughlin

Builders of a proposed mixed-use self-storage and arts facility at One Lafayette Ave. offered design and traffic testimony at Wednesday’s Morristown zoning board meeting.

The five-story building is planned for the former site of the Morris County Duplicating Corp. The 60-foot-tall structure would rise between NJ Transit tracks and the Staples strip mall, and offer about 300 units between 50 and 100 square feet each.

The project requires a use variance because self-storage facilities are not allowed in Morristown’s Town Center District.

Project architect William Mandara of Millburn-based Mancini Duffy told board members the unit sizes were designed to be smaller than average to preclude the use of oversized moving trucks at the site. None of the units, he added, would be accessible from the outside.

The storage building’s exterior would feature a cast stone/precast concrete first floor and brick-cladding on the top four floors. Screenshot by Joe McLaughlin

“We expect the demographic to be a smaller, apartment-dweller lessee – not one who would need a larger unit like you would find on a highway with roll up doors,” said Mandara, who added that he has designed dozens of self-storage buildings over the past 20 years.

A third-party operator has not yet been found for the facility.

Mandara showed renderings of the exterior, which would feature a cast stone/precast concrete first floor and brick-cladding on the top four floors. The first floor would provide space for Morris Arts, a Morris County arts advocacy nonprofit founded in 1973.

“If this were one massive brick building, it would not have a human scale,” Mandara said. “By putting a division between the upper floors and lower floor, I believe it does translate to a human scale and a pedestrian-friendly site.”

This parking schematic for the proposed storage center shows seven parking spaces for passenger vehicles and one space that can accommodate a 20-foot moving van. Screenshot by Joe McLaughlin

In his testimony before the board, traffic engineer Matthew Seckler from Stonefield Engineering Design in Rutherford said the self-storage component would generate 12 vehicle trips per hour during the busiest weekday period and 13 trips per hour during the busiest weekend period.

About six vehicles are expected to use the site at any one time, Seckler said.

“Self-storage buildings are the lowest or second-lowest trip generators per square foot that we have in our industry,” he explained.

By ordinance, 15 parking spaces are required for the entire building based on the calculation of one space for every 10,000 square feet.

The plan provides eight spaces for the storage facility – seven for regular vehicles and one for a small, 20-foot moving truck. No spaces are planned for Morris Arts, which will staff the first-floor gallery with four employees. Those staffers are expected to park off-site.

“We’re accommodating the self-storage portion on site; there is parking within 400 feet of the site that can accommodate the Morris Arts portion,” Seckler said.

A Morristown ordinance requires 15 parking spaces for the storage structure, though project plans provide eight spaces. Screenshot by Joe McLaughlin

Proposed signage was dropped from the application, as any third-party operator would bring its own sign package before the board.

A representative from Morris Arts and a self-storage expert are expected to give testimony later this month.

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to a patio project that was constructed by a homeowner at Valley View Drive in Morristown without town approval.

This past October, Michael Tuozzo paid DiMartinis Landscaping to construct a patio, pergola, stone seating bench and stonework fireplace of eight-and-a-half feet on his property.

His unapproved project put the impervious coverage on his property at 41.5 percent, which is over the town limit. This required Tuozzo to come before the board for an after-the-fact variance.

With several neighbors urging the board to deny the variance during the public comment portion of the meeting, the zoning board voted to approve the patio and pergola, but compel Tuozzo to remove the stonework fireplace and seating bench.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. MorrisArts does so much for Morristown’s communities, I hope they do find a home that allows them to grow what they do well. I’m not sure about the storage units. Most of my life I lived in rental housing units and most of them had a small space for storage. When I moved- so did the storage. My family has storage businesses and they talk about why they like it. Most people pay for years and forget about them. It’s easy money.

  2. Wow, will the folks in the 2nd Ward really benefit from such a massive building in their backyard? Enough already with these pet projects, we deserve better STOP IT PLEASE.
    Raline Smith-Reid
    Former Councilwoman Ward 2.
    Town of Morristown

  3. What is going to happen when Morris Arts holds events? I do not see attendees paying to park in the garage on the other side of the tracks when the Staples lot is free and closer.

  4. Is this really the best use of our space within a literal stones throw of morristown train station? A self storage facility? No shops, apartments, or mixed use centers?

  5. No parking is available for the 4 staffers in the Morris Arts floor of the proposed storage building. So I would assume they will park in the spaces for Staples or the restaurants, etc., around the corner. Is anyone checking with them? To state that they will park elsewhere is ignoring the issue.

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