May 31 Morris Twp Planning Board Session Regarding Honeywell Development Plans
This was a marathon session from 7:30 pm – 11:15 pm. In the end I agreed with the Board’s conclusion and next steps. Below is a summary.
Board agreed fundamentally with master plan addressing the proposed mixed use Planned Unit Development (PUD). Board cited that the land in question must be more optimally zoned to be in synch with current market realities. The Board then voted to enhance master plan and reconvene June 7, open to citizens with following points to address:
· No CCRC (uncertain as to benefits)
· Preference for a quiet zone near RR tracks
· Option to increase open space
· Increase Park Ave and Columbia Pike setbacks to 200 feet, up from 150 feet. This may reduce #town homes to 225
· Assess impact a ball field will have in the PUD
Reasons for proceeding:
Board stated the issue is not Honeywell. Rather it is need to modify the land use to maximize its potential. Corporations do not centralize headquarters as they did decades ago. Board cited Hanover debacle when they lost Lucent per Hanover rigidity. Now Hanover has a special unit that tries to draw corporations.
Wild card (and a main reason I support the Board)– state Dept of Transportation (DOT) commissioner Simpson met with Mayor May 22 citing that DOT views traffic improvements not only at park/columbia as high priority but 5-6 more in near area such as Madison avenue. DOT’s goal is to commit to long term engineering solutions to address traffic. Mayor sited this as a very significant factor.
Other Board members stated that traffic is a regional issue. One said it would be foolish to deny master plan amendment as effort to reduce traffic when the region has many factors that increase it.
TCC consultants (created Master Plan update) projected that traffic increase would be 1%. My personal opinion is that this was a faulty analysis. Using an urban transportation model, I project a 4.5% increase which is still modest.
In conclusion, the Board and state appear to view rezonining this land a certainty with enhancements to current master plan update that appear not to alter major themes of the current update. Expect approval in weeks. By next meeting June 7 enhancements will be added to plan. Citizens will be allowed to comment and ask questions but only regarding the specific enhancements.
It is Interesting that no traffic projection included variable of much higher gas prices. What if gas hits $7 or $8 in 2-3 years? I will bike 2 miles through park and Columbia on way to train and maybe bike through that intersection on way to Florham Park, Madison, and Morristown on weekends. I am sure others will too. Net effect — less traffic.
Impact on NJ and local economy:
Fact: From 2000-2010, taxpayer-funded government jobs increased by 53,700 while tax-paying private sector shed 193,600 jobs in NJ (source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Therefore it is encouraging that our local government and state are very interested in becoming more business friendly. This will help keep private businesses in NJ and encourage new ones to start up. However we have a long way to go. NJ has the 41st highest corporate tax rates and 45th highest individual income taxes and 48th highest property taxes in the nation. (source: Tax Foundation). NJ is also one of 29 states without a right to work law, which automatically drives many companies not to expand in NJ or to move to NJ. Why should a worker have to join a union in order to work for a particular company? Workers should be free to choose. Companies do. Many settle for Texas and Florida (right to work and no state income tax).
If Honeywell leaves Morris Township in 10 years (no guarantees here) the impact will not be that severe as the master plan will have this lot zoned and developed as attractive for other businesses.
Comments, questions, suggestions – firstname.lastname@example.org or stop of this weekend.
Please remember June 5 Primary and consider voting for me. Win or loose I will continue with my involvement in local and state affairs.