MORRISTOWN, NJ – The Morristown Planning Board reconvened for the first time nearly three months on Thursday, May 28 to continue the hearing of the M-Station East, LLC application, which saw a pair of key witnesses in the fields of traffic engineer and civil engineer.
The applicant’s proposed development includes 352,670 sq. feet of office space in two separate structures – a six-story building and a seven-story with an anchor tenant Deloitte, one of the "Big Four" accounting organizations and the largest professional services network in the world by revenue and number of professionals. The application also includes 29,530 square feet of retail area space as well as a parking garage with 889 spaces and 33 surface parking spaces.
Road reconfiguration, pedestrian improvements and a new roundabout at the intersection of Morris Street and Spring Street were among the traffic items proposed in this application and were discussed in detail by the first witness of the meeting, Matthew Seckler, principal of Stonefield Engineering Design based out of Rutherford, New Jersey.
Seckler presented to the planning board a Traffic Impact Study in his testimony. The study, which he says was in accordance with standard industry procedures as outlined in the Institute of Transportation Engineers, included eliminating dozens of street parking spaces in an effort to widen Ridgedale Ave. and Lackawanna Pl. to account for the increase of traffic in the area and pedestrian safety as well as the proposed traffic roundabout.
The proposed roundabout pedestrian features for safety include:
- HAWK & Rapid Flashing Beacons
- Verbal Feedback Push Buttons
- Bar tile tactical surface
- Bollard & Chain and landscaping around edge of roundabout
- Shorter Crossing Distances
The construction of the roundabout will result in the demolition of several buildings including the Fatty’s, popular fast food grease truck style sandwich restaurant.
Morristown resident Stephen Zaklukiewicz, who has been an opponent of the application, questioned whether Seckler had taken into consideration the growth of surrounding communities such as that in Morris Township and whether that would result in an increase in traffic, especially during peak hours and with the Morristown Train Station being in close proximity to applicant’s proposal.
Seckler’s response indicated that the dispersion of people a mile or two away from the proposed site would not create a surge affect in traffic. He also testified that he claims he took into consideration the growth rate over the next 20 years using a model established by NJDOT factors and the NJTPA 2040 Plan in which they look at projected residential employment and household growth figures.
The second witness of the hearing Sony David, an associate of Langan Engineering of Parsippany, New Jersey, testified on the civil engineering of the application, which is calling for several variances and deviations from the Morristown Redevelopment Plan.
Among the variances and deviations from the plan include:
- a retaining wall is required to be setback from Block 3505, Lot 15.01 a minimum of 10’ and a retaining wall with a setback less than 10’ is proposed
- a retaining wall shall have a maximum height of 8’ and a retaining wall greater than 8’ high is proposed
- an arcade overhang shall have a minimum depth of 20’ on the west side of the East Building and an arcade overhang on the west side of the East Building with a depth less than 20’ is proposed
Planning board member Stefan Armington expressed concerns about potential flooding on Morris Street, but David suggested Morris County recently upgraded the storm drains in the area.
During the testimony it was revealed that the applicant requested to waive the environmental impact statement for this redevelopment before approval.
That was of particular concern to Zaklukiewicz, who questioned why it was not needed before Morristown Planning Board Attorney John Inglesino, Esq. quickly stepped in to elaborate.
“If this application is approved and if the waiver of an environmental impact statement is granted, that does not mean the subject will not be subject to the myriad of environmental rules and regulations that are promulgated by the (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection),” explained Inglesino. “In fact, the applicant will be obligated to provide in compliance to those regulations and the resolution will specifically say so.”
Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty was particularly quiet throughout the hearing aside from a brief closing statement.
“I want to commend the civil engineer on his presentation – it was very well laid out,” Mayor Dougherty said. “It was clearly easy to see, easy read, easy to understand.”
“Testimony from the traffic engineer was great and easy to understand,” he added.
In October 2019, the Morristown Council approved the project despite receiving resistance from several residents of the community. However, it still needs to go through the planning board for approval.
The Planning Board will meet again in a virtual Zoom meeting on Thursday, June 4 at 7:00 p.m. and the public can participate. Meetings have been tentatively scheduled each week thereafter. In the forthcoming meetings the architect is expected to participate in the hearing.
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