Honeywell Process to Include All Committee Members

Deputy Mayor Bruce Sisler and Committeeman Jeff Grayzel will participate as financial impact of project discussed during first public hearing.

The start of the first public hearing on the ordinance to rezone Honeywell's property on Thursday night went a little unexpected.

While the financial analysis for redeveloping Honeywell's property and public comment on the impacts took up the majority of the meeting, the major announcement at the beginning was that Deputy Mayor Bruce Sisler and Committeeman Jeff Grayzel will be able to vote on Honeywell's redevelopment plan after all.

After and because of potential conflict of interests, they are now back in the process as of Thursday because the Citizens for Better Planning in Morris Township received enough residents who live within 200 feet of Honeywell's property to sign a petition.

This petition requires the township committee to vote with a super-majority—meaning four votes out of the five committee members—on the redevelopment plan.

The CBPMT released a statement saying the dilemma is the fact that the township committee showed "a lack of due diligence in vetting its members."

With Sisler and Grayzel recused, there would have only been three votes, but Township Attorney John Mills said that under the "doctrine of necessity" the committee must fulfill a legal obligation to have both members for enough votes on the plan to add in residential and office space on the company's 147-acre property.

The financial impacts of the mixed-use additions in the proposed plan have been one of the major concerns addressed, and at the meeting Thursday night, residents finally got to hear from an expert and ask questions.

Fiscal Impacts Presented

The rest of the four-hour meeting consisted of an independent presentation of Honeywell's financial analysis by David Evans, a certified accountant from the township's firm, Nisivoccia.

In Evans' presentation, he explained and offered his own input of the analysis, which is posted on the Morris Township website.

The analysis lays out how the redevelopment is expected to impact both the municipality and the school district.

For each of the two aspects, the report looks at three scenarios, with the first scenario being the one that is most likely to occur if Honeywell builds out its development to its full market projection.

Under the first scenario for the municipal impact, new tax assessments would bring the township an additional $787,900 in revenue per year, and would benefit the municipality $535,100. Evans said that these costs take into account hiring a new full-time police officer and DPW worker.

The other two scenarios, which "reflect financial consequences worse than expected," depict what it would be like if Honeywell only built out 80 and 60 percent of its market projection.

Under the third scenario at 60 percent, the township would have about $278,000 in additional revenue, and only benefit the municipality about $25,000.

Evans said that in his opinion, if the market projection is not between 80 and 100 percent, the project will not be able to get done.

"I think that it's a fairly safe assumption that you're probably going to come out somewhere between 80 to 100 percent of market, which means a net benefit to the town of about between $270,000 and $500,000 a year," he said.

Under the school impact, the "most likely" scenario would add in 38 students and expect to cost the district about $700,000. It would also re-distribute $367,528 to all township taxpayers from "excess" school dollars. The third scenario at 58 students would cost the district more than $1.1 million, and benefit the taxpayer with $527,000 in "excess" dollars.

The basis for the enrollment projection was from a report prepared by Rutgers in 2006. It was used by both Honeywell experts and an independent firm, Evans said.

Evans said they disagree with Honeywell's analysis that there is an economic benefit to the school district.

"In our opinion, the town will benefit positively economically from this redevelopment and will not be harmed from a school tax percentage for these new town homes," he said.

Residents React to Analysis

Out of the dozens of residents who attended Thursday's meeting, several raised concerns about the basis of the numbers presented and how Evans could be confident about the full market projection.

Resident John Gotto asked, "What is the real basis for your optimism or certainty that the end result will be 100 to 80 percent of full market projection?"

Steve Lipsky, another resident, challenged Evans to cite any studies or cases where markets have sold out fully and asked, "How can you justify 100 percent build out with what's been going on the economy?"

Evans responded and said that it is their opinion and best judgement based on the facts and circumstances that they acquired by discussing with department heads, the assessor and the school as to what they think what will happen.

Committeeman Daniel Caffrey added that if the project lasted 5-10 years, the economy would change over time and so would the building values.

While Evans said it is impossible to predict what will actually happen in the future, he said he is "comfortable" with what the firm projects.

Resident Christine Dwyer brought up the issue about what would happen if Honeywell left the state, and the redevelopment didn't even occur.

"Our possible growth with the Honeywell project is minimal compared to the damage that would be done if Honeywell was no longer a functional company and a major tax contributor," she said.

Other community members expressed concern over the COAH obligation—the legal number of affordable housing units needed in order to redevelop the property—because there was talk about extra units being built off the Honeywell campus by West Hanover Avenue and Ketch Road, but Mayor Peter Mancuso confirmed that Honeywell will not build those extra townhouses in that area.

The county does not have that property for sale or for lease, he said, and it is impossible to determine at this point if Honeywell plans to build town homes in other areas because the new obligation is still pending a state court decision.

With only time at the meeting to go over the financial impacts, Mancuso said the next meeting will continue to finish the financial comments and carry into the traffic and environment comments.

The next hearing is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the .

Matt Marnett September 08, 2012 at 11:48 PM
@Rob Burke After reading a number of articles, I have a few questions. If Mr. Sisler's employment is a source of potential conflict, wouldn't Mr. Grayzel's wife's employment be as well? Since she no longer works for Honeywell, shouldn't we know if she left voluntarily or involuntarily? And hypothetically if the separation was involuntary, wouldn't that adversely affect the Grayzel household income? If such a situation impacted household finances, wouldn't that by extension influence Mr. Grayzel's judgement about Honeywell's application? I guess my question really is why all the focus on Mr. Sisler instead Mr. Grayzel?
Rob Burke September 08, 2012 at 11:59 PM
@Matt: The question of whether a person has a conflict of interest is fact intensive. Regarding Sisler, the facts are clear and he has a conflict. His employer wants Honeywell in Morris Twp. Sisler cannot act impartially - his boss has a position on this issue and his boss has legislated to accomplish this task. Whether Grayzel has a conflict has no bearing on the fact that Sisler has an actual conflict. Sisler cannot and should not be permitted to participate in these proceedings, as a matter of law. As I understand the Grayzel facts, there is no conflict. The law is well settled that holding a pension that is fully vested from a former employer over which you have no control does not prohibit one from acting impartially when sitting in judgment. Judges do it all the time, when they own blind trusts that they can't exercise control over. Here, Grayzel cannot buy or sell within that pension; I would expect but don't know that the fully vested pension represents a right to receive defined amounts of US dollars at future dates. As such, there's no conflict. If you are aware of facts that are different than these, the answer could change. As it stands, I find it bizarre that Grayzel was pressed to recuse himself and then was denigrated at an open public meeting by Sisler.
Rob Burke September 09, 2012 at 12:18 AM
@matt: I neglected to point out the obvious. Sisler himself is currently employed by a boss whose allegiance to Honeywell creates the problem. Grayzel is not and has never been employed by Honeywell. His wife was once employed by Honeywell and no longer is. There is no ongoing relationship. You're comparing apples to kumquats. And if that's the case, we should toss Rosenbush too, as I believe he was once employed by Allied Signal, which is now Honeywell, if I'm not mistaken.
Kerwin Fuffle September 09, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Mr. Burke, Maybe after the Honeywell project is approved despite you and Mr. Lee Goldberg creating confusion and delay, we can all go out for apple pie and kumquat ice cream? Kerwin
Rob Burke September 09, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Seems unlikely, Bruce. Unless you wear a mask and disguise your voice...


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