Townhouse Opponents Launch Passionate Argument
ZBA member reminds: 'This builder is not going to go away.'
The effect a new townhouse community could have on the character of the rural residential area encompassing Mountain Way, Rocky Heights and South Powder Mill Road is still being debated at Town Hall. The Parsippany Troy-Hills Zoning Board of Adjustment resumed its long consideration of the proposed 700 Mountain Way townhouse development proposal at its Wednesday night meeting.
In this session, attorney Louis Rago, representing residents' opposition group Preserve Mountain Way, was given the floor to begin his case against a revised version of a previously rejected Edward Mosberg affordable housing townhome application was presented for new testimony last week.
The board carried the case over after hearing from one witness. Testimony will resume March 20.
That one witness, for the opposition, was land use planner David Zimmerman, who testified before the ZBA against the project in late 2011.
The planner offered statistic after statistic to argue that townhouses are a bad fit for a "unique country road in Parsippany featuring large-lot single family dwellings."
Zimmerman put forward a case based on criteria the zoning board must consider when judging an application for variances and zoning changes.
"One of proofs has to deal with in this type of application. You must prove and the board must find that the use promoted the general welfare. You have to ask a question: Is this property particularly suited for the proposed use?"
Zimmerman said that the two lots designated for 700 Mountain Way are surrounded by single-family detached dwellings
"Mountain Way was developed for single family homes," he said.
The second proof is whether there is a purpose of municipal land use promoted in the application, Zimmerman continued.
"My position is that townhouses on this property are inappropriate from a land development perspective," he explained. "It does not promote the general welfare, Glenmont Commons provides plenty of townhouses, there are more than 300 more on Route 10.
"Look at this immediate neighborhood—there are probably more townhouses than single family homes."
Zimmerman contended that the environmental characteristics of the neighborhood are better suited to single family homes. He added that the township's master plan makes that vision clear.
He asserted that the project violates a town ordinance that mandates "adequate open space" in applications. Zimmerman said that according to the law, there is a buffer requirement of 65 feet between a townhouse and a single family home and that 700 Mountain Way's buffer falls short at about 60 feet.
The next proof, he said, is whether the application promotes the "appropriate density."
"You have a significantly higher population density with 20 townhouses than you would with four single family dwellings," he asserted, stating that the approved density for the Rural Residential zone is .5 acres per acre..
"If you were to consider 20 townhouses at a population of 2.5 per townhuse, that would be 50 persons and four homes with four per home, that's 16 people on the property. That's much higher than zoning requires. The density proposed is 2.1 units per acre. The area is zoned for .5 units per acre, a fourfold increase in density."
Zimmerman also argued that the 2004 Parsippany master plan determined that there are enough townhomes in the township.
There's no purpose promoted, to the contrary these purposes are thwarted by the application.
"Does this advance the public good?" he asked. "This will erode the single family character of an area that's already fragile due to Glenmont Commons."
He also called it "a detriment to the public good."
Attorney Robert Garofalo of Garofalo and O'Neill, representing the developer, noted that master plan is in the process of being rexamined, as must happen every 10 years.
ZBA members took turns asking questions of Zimmerman. In one exchange, Amil Shah addressed the rexamination.
"Does the master plan reflect society today, after the recession?" he asked, recalling planner John McDonough's previous testimony that demand was high for townhomes in Parsippany but supply was low."
Zimmerman countered, saying, "Parsippany has more townhouses than any other community save Denville."
"Are you comparing apples to apples?" asked Board Chair Robert Iracane. "What the applicant is proposing makes sense [for these two lots]. If you look at lots as you go down the block, they get smaller.
"It doesn't make sense in this zone," said Lou Rago. "They don't want or need it, and that's the master plan saying that."
Board member Saurin Pathak seemed to urge compromise as he put a question to the opposition.
"What's a reasonable numberof units?" he asked.
"This builder is not going to go away."