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Honeywell Plan Met With More Questions, Concerns

Project's environmental, financial impact among issues raised during third public hearing.

More presentations were made and additional questions were raised Wednesday night regarding the impacts of redeveloping Honeywell's property.

Community members who attended the third public hearing Wedneday night on the ordinance that would let the Fortune-100 company redevelop its headquarters for residential and office space still find problems with the plan, even after over two years of deliberations and recently hearing the environmental, traffic and environment experts present their analyses.

But before the public got to make their statements, a legal matter—one that had previously delayed the hearings—was addressed.

The resolution prepared by Township Attorney John Mills that supports his legal decision to reinstate recused members Jeff Grayzel and Bruce Sisler was approved by the township committee.

The four-page document cites several cases for invoking the "Doctrine of Necessity," which allows the two recused committee members to vote.

The "Doctrine of Necessity" was invoked because enough residents signed a petition that legally required at least four out of five committee members a vote on Honeywell's plan. Without Grayzel and Sisler, there would have only been two.

With all committee members back in the process, experts continued to provide input and the committee and public asked more questions.

For the first time throughout the hearings, the township's land use planner, Paul Phillips, spoke about the ordinance.

Phillips, who is a member of the Technical Coordinating Committee, helped draft the ordinance. He laid out the overview of the plan, mainly explaining the 235 townhomes and 900,000 square feet of office and lab space that would be built on the 147 acre property.

A point brought up by Phillips was the possibility of adding a quiet zone on the campus at the railroad crossing on the campus. A quiet zone would reduce the noise of the train that passes at the intersection of Kahn Road and Columbia Turnpike.

The zone must be applied for by the township committee, Phillips said, but the developer has to provide the costs. While it does provide a better quality of life, Phillips said the downside is maintenance and issues with respect to liability.

Environmental Concerns Continued

Marie Raser, the environmental consultant hired by the township from EcolSciences, presented her firm's analysis at last week's hearing. On Wednesday, she addressed some of the questions that were unanswered.

Most of the concerns involved the contaminated ground water on the campus that contains carbon tetrachloride, and how the water flows on the site.

Raser said the water is controlled by a well that prevents it from moving off the property.

The carbon tetrachloride in the subsurface travels to an aquifur. A well pumps from that aquifur, which controls the contamination.

Another question that was raised last week was about the locations of the environmental areas of concern. Raser brought a diagram detailing all of the areas still being investigated and worked on.

On the board, it shows the solid waste management units—the areas that have been under investigation for a number of years.

Raser said there are currently four SWMUs still being worked on; one that is located by Park Avenue that is the ground water well, two that are one the property proposed for residentail units, and another one in the office space.

The the two SWMUs in the space laid out for residential units, a pesticide—dieldrin—has been found. Workers are currently sampling all over that area for the pesticide.

Another concern brought up was the maintance of the pumps that keep the water from flowing offsite. Raser said that workers look at the pumps everyday and evaluate the water level.

Residents Continue to Provide Input

After all experts have made their analyses, residents have continued to ask questions regarding all impacts.

Harriet Gross, who referred to the nature of Honeywell "irreplaceable" and "a hallmark of the townshp," said the true value is in the nature, and not in the profits from the redevelopment.

"The great meadow is priceless, it's a treasure beyond a valuation," she told the committee. "Its worth, if kept and preserved, will only increase and the joy it will also increase over the years. Do not destroy our longterm heritage for a very short-term questionable scheme."

In terms of financial impacts, other residents questioned the potential drop of property value for homes close to the campus.

Financial expert David Evans from the township's firm Nisivoccia, said there is no expected negative impact on the adjacent properties.

This response, Evans said, was from the township's assessing department.

Resident Steve Lipsky had a question for traffic expert Gordon Meth.

He wanted to know what improvements were going to be needed for local roads, including Normany Parkway and Punch Bowl Road. While some roads surrounding the campus are owned by the county, others are local.

Meth didn't think there would need to be improvements.

"Based on the analysis I did, I don't really see the need to improve local roads," Meth said. "The only roadway that might be questionable is Park Avenue. Otherwise, the roads themselves, the volumes are well below the carrying capacity of the road."

The public input portion was cut off and will continue Thursday night at 8 p.m. at the Morris Township Municipal Building.

The hearing will begin with the Citizens for Better Planning in Morris Township's planning consultant Peter Steck. The committee will decide Thursday if more hearings are necessary.

Mayor Peter Mancuso has said he plans to let everyone be heard, and said earlier this week, "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."

Rob Burke September 21, 2012 at 12:32 AM
here's another concern. a pending complaint against sisler is being investigated by the ethics board. the ethics board member in charge of the investigation is a lawyer. honeywell is a client of his law firm. uh, yup. a conflict of interest on the ethics board! only in jersey.
Martatown September 21, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Rob- Thanks for bringing to light some of the issues in this matter. I'm a firm believer in the old adage that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I have voted on both sides of the isle and have had positive results from many members of the board...both parties. I have a couple of questions/comments for you. 1. Name a large NJ town that you think is absent of some type of political corruption? Go higher and tell me what branch of our government does not have corruption? 2. What aspects of Morris Township are you most dissatisfied with and why not move to a better (in your eyes) town? In general I think Morris Township is an nice place to live, offers many amenities and...very important in my eyes, has a somewhat reasonable tax rate. Why not pick a similar Essex county town?? With double the taxes AND corruption. I understand what you are doing and do appreciate your role in keeping the politicians somewhat honest, but I sincerely don't understand what your angle is?? I personally would love to live in a town with all open spaces, great services, no traffic and low taxes, but that's not a reality...at least not in the metro NY area.

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