Residents: We Need More Time For Honeywell Plan
Three public hearing dates set for August but many feel condensed timeline is not 'fair.'
After more than two years of public hearings and several draft changes, the zoning ordinance to allow Honeywell to redevelop its 147-acre property for mixed-use was introduced by the Township Committee Wednesday night, two days after a referral from the planning board.
While the public could not comment or question the ordinance—which calls for the development of 235 townhouses, 900,000 square feet of office and work space and 13 acres of open space on the Fortune-100 company's headquarters—at the time of the introduction, the township committee announced the public hearing dates in which community members could then make their suggestions. Some residents were unhappy with what they heard.
Mayor Peter Mancuso announced the public hearings to be on Aug. 1 and 8, and then again on Aug. 15, which is the next township committee meeting. All public hearings will begin at 7 p.m. at the Morris Township Municipal Building.
Several residents, including Committee Member Jeffrey Grayzel, felt it was unfair to make the dates with short notice during the summer when many people are on vacation.
"If you want to have a fair and open process that's open to the public," Grayzel said, "doing it in August is just not the way to do it. It's just not fair to the public."
Mancuso's response was that he believes the process should move along after two and a half years of input and thought process.
"I just think it's important to move this along as expeditiously as possible," Mancuso said. "We have been going through this process for a long period of time and I don't think we want to stall this and let it go on any longer."
But some residents fear that a month isn't adequate time to have their voices heard.
Resident Lee Goldberg, as well as several others, suggested having more public hearing dates in September to allow those on vacation a chance to attend.
"That process took way too long," Goldberg said. "And now, when we get to this point, to have two meetings in the beginning of August, I just think it's beyond ludicrous, and I really think it sets a bad tone. Let people get organized, get back to their regular routine."
Michele Demarest, the leader of Citizens for Better Planning in Morris Township, read a letter on Wednesday night addressing some of the issues the CBPMT are concerned about involving the redevelopment, including traffic, open space and the environment. Demarest also requested more public hearings in September.
Demarest called for "at least two public hearings to be scheduled after school is back in session to allow full public participation in the process."
"We believe that these times frames will allow everybody the minimum time necessary to protect the affected communities," she said.
The changes to the $38 billion company's property would create several hundred new jobs, maintain the 1,200 jobs on already the site and keep the headquarters in Morris Township, as it considers relocating to Pennsylvania.
Township Committee Member Bruce Sisler believes this change requires careful consideration, and that the township is doing everything it can to aid in the process of Honeywell's request to redevelop its property.
"This is a major development for the state, the county, and certainly for Morris Township, which is why it deserves our careful attention and critical analysis," Sisler said. "Most importantly this is an opportunity to plan for Morris Township's future. We have an opportunity to keep this Fortune-100 company right here in our township and we can plan our future with the anticipated growth of our ratables and our revenues for our schools."
Although only three dates were set for the public meeting, Mancuso said there is a possibility that later dates could be scheduled, which would be announced at the Aug. 15 meeting.
"There's so much more to be said about this," Mancuso said. "It's just a beginning of a process. You know that we will do everything we can as a township committee to do what's good for Morris Township."