The Morris Township Planning Board’s professionals will have a slightly amended draft of a master plan amendment for the board to view at a special meeting next week.
Board members want some significant changes to the amendment drafted by Board Attorney Brian Burns, Engineer James Slate and Planner Paul Phillips.
The major change suggested by Mayor Peter Mancuso and supported by most of the board was to remove a continuing care facility from the allowed uses under a new zone for the Honeywell property created by the amendment.
Board member and Township Committeeman Scott Rosenbush said he just learned the municipality can’t dictate whether such a facility, called a CCRC, can be for-profit or not-for-profit. A not-for-profit facility would not be a revenue producer for the township, Mancuso noted. Honeywell proposed a CCRC along with around 250 townhouses.
Phillips will report back to the board at the special meeting with several alternatives for the townhouse development. Honeywell is suggesting a 150-foot buffer along Columbia Road and Park Avenue to accommodate the townhouses. Rosenbush said he would prefer a 300-foot buffer. Since that would eliminate 65 to 70 townhouses, he asked Phillips to calculate the number that can fit with a buffer of 175, 200 or 250 feet.
The buffer is an important point to several board members. Member Linda Murphy noted the township historic commission recommended keeping the viewshed along Columbia Road.
Member Kevin McNulty suggested asking Honeywell to construct a ballfield on a flat area of the property, but some members thought the railroad grade crossing at Kahn Road night be a danger with the kind of traffic a field could generate. Rosenbush said if the township committee enacts a “quiet zone” the railroad would have to improve the crossing making it less dangerous.
Slate addressed environmental concerns. He said the map listing a critical environmental site on the Honeywell property is outdated and environmental regulations have come a long way since it was drawn. He said riparian buffers and conservation zones are much more restrictive than the CES was.
Some residents were concerned the board was glossing over an environmental issue when Slate said there had been a threatened or endangered species sighting and that Honeywell would have to identify possible habitat. Environmental consultant Maria Raser explained an Indiana bat was sighted on the East side of Route 24 and the state Division of Fish and Wildlife drew a two kilometer circle around the sighting area which includes part of the Honeywell property. She said Honeywell will have to determine if the bat’s habitat extend onto their property and could face restrictions if it is.
Traffic is the major concern of residents who object to the redevelopment of the Honeywell site. Mancuso said he has met with the mayors of surrounding municipalities and with Morris County and state transportation officials and will continue to work toward a regional solution.
Burns said the public will be allowed to questions the board and professionals about any changes to the draft amendment.
The professionals will also begin drafting zoning ordinance changes to reflect the master plan amendment.
The board cancelled its regular meeting for Monday, June 4 for lack of agenda items, but will hold the special meeting Thursday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m.