Honeywell Hearings Continue With Response to Resident's Outburst
Two meetings scheduled for this week, attorney to cite cases supporting legal decision to reinstate recused committee members.
Hearings on the ordinance to rezone Honeywell International's property will continue with meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, with input from the land use planners for both the township and the Citizens for Better Planning in Morris Township group.
The Township Committee will first on Wednesday hold a regular public meeting where Acting Chief of Police John McGuinness will be sworn in as chief.
Once the hearing starts, it will include statements from Paul Phillips, the township's land use planner, and then the public will be able to comment or question the plan that calls for 235 townhouses and office and lab space on Honeywell's 147-acre property.
Mayor Peter Mancuso said the experts will be in attendance on Wednesday night to answer any questions from the public.
Earlier this month, David Evans, an accountant from the township's firm, presented the fiscal impacts. The township's enviromental expert, Marie Rasier, and traffic expert, Gordon Meth, presented their findings at the most recent hearing last week.
While the process to redevelop Honeywell's property has gone on for more than two years, tensions have risen recently following the recusals of committee members Jeff Grayzel and Bruce Sisler, who have each since been reinstated.
Grayzel and Sisler, who recused themselves because of potential conflicts of interest, are back in the process and are allowed a vote because Township Attorney John Mills invoked the "Doctrine of Necessity" earlier this month, after receiving a petition from the Citizens for Better Planning in Morris Township.
The petition, which was signed by enough residents who live within 200 feet of Honeywell's property, requires there to be a super-majority—meaning four votes out of the five committee members—on the redevelopment plan.
Without Grayzel and Sisler, there would only be three votes.
There have been several challenges by residents to the "Doctrine of Necessity," as Mills announced at the beginning of last week's hearing.
One of those residents, Robert Burke, interrupted the meeting, demanding Mills to cite a case that is consistent with his conclusion.
While Mills was in the middle of speaking, Burke got up to the microphone and shouted at Mills to cite an instance that would allow both Grazyel and Sisler to continue in the deliberations.
While Mancuso and Mills repeatedly told Burke that he was out of order and told him he couldn't comment until the public portion, Burke raised his voice and continued to shout, "I just want one case! What's the name of the case, and I'll sit down."
After Mills declined to cite a case and told Burke that he would email him the case the next day, Burke stormed off when Mancuso told him, "Mr. Mills will take this under advice and you'll have your answer in a reasonably short time."
Since that meeting, Mills told Patch Tuesday that he has prepared a resolution and memorandum that cites several cases that supports his legal decision to reinstate the recused members. Mills said he has submitted the documents to Township Administrator Timothy Quinn and Township Clerk Cathy Amelio, and the documents will be made public.
Other residents have also shown opposition to the plan. President of the CBPMT Michele Demarest released a statement this week, listing five reasons for residents to attend the meeting.
Demarest calls for more residents to attend, saying "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."
Demarest also said scheduling the two meetings back-to-back this week is "absurd" because the township didn't give "prior consultation of all committee members and without any regard for the people."
In response, Mancuso told Patch that the he wants to move this process along, as it has now lasted more than two years.
"We would like to have it resolved as reasonably soon as possible, but in hearing every single person's comments about the process," Mancuso said. "So we will not rush it, we will not force it, but we will be sure that we hear everybody's input before we take it to a vote."
After Wednesday, the next hearing will be on Thursday at 8 p.m., beginning with CBMPT planning consultant Peter Steck. The committee will decide Thursday if more hearings are deemed necessary.