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Planners Press Pause on Morristown Master Plan Changes

Special Planning Board meeting was called to bring together planners and concerned citizens on opposite sides of proposals.

The Morristown Planning Board took a cue from residents at its Thursday meeting and halted a planned Master Plan adjustment that would have given churches and nonprofits the freedom to build and expand throughout the entire town, according to MorristownGreen.com. 

The special meeting—called to quell contention rising between citizen groups and planners—focused on 42 proposed changes to the Master Plan. The board said it would look again at Second Ward redevelopment in the next two years, when state environmental agencies present updated flood maps and regulations, the article said.

The apparent willingness of planners to listen to community concerns over potential traffic problems that could be created by loosening restraints on nonprofit and church building seemed to ease the minds of many residents there as the once-each-decade Master Plan revision continued. A revised draft of the plan is expected to ready Feb. 1,  and the next public hearing will take place Feb. 20.

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty said previously that the public played a major role and provided input online and at public hearings and was hopeful it would continue.

“We wanted to make sure we go through the open process,” Dougherty said. “We had store front meetings to get feedback and drive civic engagement. In my opinion no other administration has done as much to bring it out to the public That is what we said we were going to do when I took office and we did it.”

The plan is meant to guide town planners as they adopt legally binding redevelopment plans for specific neighborhoods and districts and was underwritten by a $100,000 grant from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority with additional funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Association and the town itself.

The master plan is an advisory document that must be updated every 10 years by state law.

“It is a lot of work,” Dougherty said. “But we are excited.”

The plan states:

Morristown is unquestionably a desirable place to live, work, and play. But as it is located at the crossroads of the region, so it is also at the crossroads of change. The demands on Morristown as a regional center are increasing. In recent years, the Town has been challenged as it works to balance development and preservation goals, as well as the impact of redevelopment and growth, with roadway circulation and walkability.

The purpose of this document, created with input from hundreds of members of the community, is to provide solutions to some of the complex concerns that development and growth create in a modern era, while preserving and strengthening the quality of life and historic character that define Morristown. The focus of this plan will be to ensure that policies and solutions are socially equitable, economically sound, and environmentally responsible.

It’s a continuing process,” Dougherty said. “Getting it implemented and getting it to the public takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is months and months and months, but its moving. And that is what this is about, moving Morristown forward."

At the last meeting of the Morristown mayor and council,  Daniel Hernandez and Phil Abramsom and their new firm, Topology NJ, were retained as the official planners for the town of Morristown for the rate of $150,000. This fee previously went to the Jonathan Rose Companies, where Hernandez and Abramson were employed. According to officials,  Hernandez and Abramson were heavily involved in the master plan process and the administration saw an opportunity for better service with the change. 

The council agreed and approved their appointment 6-0. 

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