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For Roxbury's Port Morris Fire House, Just One More Trip Around the Sun

The dormant former Port Morris fire house on Main Street Credits: Google

ROXBURY, NJ – The end is coming for the old firehouse on Main Street in Port Morris. If all goes as planned, the place that Roxbury Fire Co. 2 called home for many decades has about a year left.

Then, sometime in 2019, heavy equipment will tumble the building to make way for new homes to be built by Morris Habitat for Humanity. If it all works out, Port Morris will lose a timeworn structure and gain about 12 new residents.

The organization is applying for grant money to proceed with its plan to build on the site a pair of 2-bedroom duplex houses that will be sold to people earning $35,000 to $72,000 per year. The “affordable housing” development will be the third created in Roxbury by Morris Habitat. It rehabilitated a single-family home on Salmon Road in 2008 and will soon begin building a 12-unit project at 121 Main St. in Succasunna – the site of the former Roxbury public works garage.

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The fire house in Port Morris hasn’t been used in more than five years, having been supplanted by the new Roxbury Fire Co. 2 fire house and annex on Shippenport Road in Landing. Roxbury Councilman Richard Zoschak, who represents Port Morris, said the old fire house long ago outlived its usefulness.

“The building just got old,” Zoschak said. “It was very expensive to operate. It isn’t insulated and it is not handicapped accessible. The building just got outdated.”

In its project documents, Morris Habitat said, “the development of this site will … remediate the site and revitalize an otherwise deteriorating property.”

The new housing project is projected to cost $765,000. Most of the funding will come from government grants but Morris Habitat also hopes to raise $95,000 from fundraising and private grants and $50,000 from donation of goods and in-kind services.

Morris Habitat expects to be before the Roxbury Planning Board during the third quarter of next year and it hopes to purchase the property before the end of 2018. The timetable calls for the homes to be occupied in 2020.

People applying to buy the units “are expected to be first-time homebuyers,” said Morris Habitat in project documents. “Each homeowner will be required to spend 300 hours of ‘sweat equity’ working on the actual construction of their home … In addition, MHfH maintains a long-term relationship with each homeowner to assure their success as new homeowners long after construction is completed.”

Zoschak said people in the neighborhood have been informed about the plan and support it.

“The neighbors know about it and they’re pretty happy with it,” he said. “I haven’t heard any complaints about it. It’s going to be a viable thing to get that property on the books and dress it up a little bit.”

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