Dear Morris Township Residents:
The Public Hearings continue this week. The township is rushing and has scheduled meetings on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. This coming Wednesday fiscal, environmental and traffic experts will continue to be questioned by the public. On Thursday, Sept. 20 Paul Phillips, Land Use Planner for Morris Township, will discuss and defend the ordinance. Your attendance at both meetings will make a difference.
Here is a "Top 5" list of reasons to come and points that must be made by the residents of the Township.
1. They are continuing to move forward with hearings after having reinstated all the recused committeemen after citing- without a formal written legal opinion- the application of the "rule of necessity" which should be applied in cases of emergency only. There is no emergent case here, merely a single landowner who is eager to make a profit. The township inappropriately is applying this rule. And doing so after over 30% of the landowners surrounding the property signed a petition protesting the ordinance. The Township is not listening to the residents. It is listening to Honeywell, as usual.
2. The Township needs to know how you feel about their plans to eliminate the Historic Great Lawn. The "Great Lawn" is the lovely expanse of lawn and trees in the front of the property bordered by Columbia and Park Avenue. This viewshed has been the gateway to Morris Township since 1890 when Otto Kahn built his estate. While the historic preservation Commission has formally stated that it supports 600 foot property setbacks from Columbia and Park in order to preserve this treasure, the current ordinance allows building with 200 feet or less of the road.
3. THE TOWNSHIP IS RUSHING US AND NOT PLAYING FAIR. THEY KNOW IT. ALL THE MORE REASON FOR YOU TO COME OUT. Its hard to believe that the Township actually thinks that people are going to be able to come out two nights in a row with the hearings lasting until midnight, Absolutely ridiculous. It's a way to exclude you and me from participating fully. Don't let them exclude YOU.
4. At the September 12th meeting where public questions and comments were heard in response to traffic and environmental expert testimony, many new concerns were brought up about environmental pollution (especially water pollution) on the property. In light of Honeywell's guilty plea to a felony count for violating chemical storage and other issues. Seven thousand five hundred (7500) drums of nuclear waste was stored without a permit. These issues make me uncomfortable when we think about the unresolved environmental issues on the property. The Township's independent environmental expert has yet to provide testimony indicating whether numerous environmental issues on the property have been resolved. Does the Township believe that these should be resolved (as per expert report) before they allow people to live there? Will vapor mitigation systems be necessary on each home? Let them know we are not convinced by the "independent" analysis.
5. Let the Township know that it is NOT OBLIGED to pass the zoning ordinance tro make Honeywell stay in Morris Township. The State just awarded them $40 million to stay. Many people have written asking how Honeywell's $40 million award from EDA may affect the outcome of this ordinance process http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2012/09/nj_agency_greenlights_40_milli.html.
In order to obtain this grant Honeywell must make a capital investment of $20 million in qualified business facility, retain 100 employees, and be in an area possibly targeted for development in the Highlands, Pinelands or Meadowlands! They MUST NOT HAVE COMMITTED TO A SITE IN NEW JERSEY PRIOR TO RECEIVING THE APPROVAL. They must demonstrate a net positive benefit equal to at least 110% of the tax credit received ($44 M). Within 6 months of the approval they must have site plan approval, and committed financing for the project.
This credit is no doubt a boon to Honeywell. But let's be clear: the grant is NOT being awarded for redevelopment of the non-Honeywell-occupied space on the site. It is NOT awarded to assist them for selling off their land, building townhouses or leasing office space to other companies. Therefore, it is our opinion that this grant incentivizes Honeywell to stay in New Jersey regardless of whatever else might or might not happen on its property. Let's let the township know that they must work in OUR best interests not Honeywell's when evaluating this ordinance.
The residents have made point after point about why the ordinance is not good for the community and why the fiscal analysis is flawed, yet the Township is not taking these true comments to heart. Instead they are crashing forward. Jeff Tittel, Director of the Sierra Club had it right when he stated that the grant money will subsidize sprawl and not create new jobs. http://morris.patch.com/articles/honeywell-awarded-40-million-grant-to-stay-in-nj?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001
Questioning will continue this week by you and me and our experts. I hope you will come out and help us to continue to protect this area from the type of development that is going to decrease our standard of living in Morris Township, provide questionable fiscal benefit for the Township and eliminate an important part of our history and pride in the Great Lawn. Look forward to seeing you there.
Michele Demarest for Citizens for Better Planning in Morris Township