Morris Habitat for Humanity is returning to Morristown for another Willow Street project.
The Morris County arm of the international homebuilder for low and moderate income families plans to build a two-family house at 18 Willow St., near their last Morristown project, . The approved several variances on the project Wednesday night, which now allows the non-profit to purchase the privately-owned property.
"We're thrilled to be working on Willow Street again," said Liz DeCoursey, director of operations for Morris Habitat. The two units, three-bedroom main floor and two-bedroom second floor, represent the fifth and sixth Habitat for Humanity projects on Willow Street and 25th and 26th homes in Morristown since their first Morristown project in 1987.
The location of the unit, which DeCoursey anticipated would be started sometime in 2013, is a narrow, sloping strip of land that backs up to the NJ Transit train tracks. Given its unique footprint, several variances were requested, including minimum width (the proposed unit will be 50 feet wide, versus the minimum 70-foot requirement) and minimum backyard setback (26.5 square feet versus 30 feet).
The project will be wheelchair-accessible, which will allow Morristown to apply the two dwellings toward its Council on Affordable Housing credit requirements, DeCoursey said.
Because of the smaller space, the two separated garages will be located in the front of the building, with entrances on opposite sides of the dwelling. Buffers, including a continuous fence, will be in place to provide privacy from the nearby residences, as well as from the train tracks.
James Mullen, the attorney representing Morris Habitat for Humanity, noted Habitat for Humanity was one of the top 10 builders in the nation. Those selected from a lottery system for the houses pay into a 30-year zero-percent-interest mortgage, held by Habitat for Humanity. They also must put in at least 300 "sweat equity" hours on the project.
"In 27 years, we've never had a foreclosure on one of our units," DeCoursey said. "It's 'hand-up' homeownership."
"Our families really do enhance the community," Mullen said. "They are really valuable members of our community."
After listening to several witnesses for the project, Zoning Board members voted unanimously to approve the variances. "I like the application," said Board member Michael Schmidt. "They seem to have done their due dilligence."
"Not to editorialize, but it really seems they do care about the community and want to be good neighbors," said town planning professional Phil Abramson.