Residents Slam Waterview Proposal at Council Meeting
Development foes made their views heard, but did not appear in numbers enough to shut meeting down.
A host of members of Citizens for Health, Safety and Welfare (formerly Don't Rezone Waterview) filed into the municipal building with the expectation that the controversial proposal regarding putting a mixed-use retail and residential complex on 26.6 currently undeveloped acres of Waterview Plaza might be discussed.
And some hoped, as had happened during a January Planning Board hearing on the matter, that enough people opposed to the project might attend that the building's fire capacity limit—188 people—might be surpassed, forcing a shutdown of the meeting.
That did not happen. Only about 70 people turned out—this, despite about 600 emails being sent out to Waterview development opponents, according to CHSW officers.
So the gathering went forward.
Councilman Michael dePierro announced that due to a council vote at a special meeting held the night before, the next five council meetings will be held in different venues to allow for larger audiences and to reduce the chances of future meeting shutdowns.
The March 19 session will take place at Parsippany Hills High School . The council's April 9, April 16, May 7 and May 14 sessions will be at Parsippany High School. All will begin at the regular 7:30 p.m. start time.
As the purpose of the agenda meeting is to cement the order of business for the next business meeting, the council was not expected to address the Waterview controversy. The matter, however, did arise during the meeting's public comment portion.
Resident Mary Purzycki of Lake Parsippany stood in opposition to the notion of turning a section of the Waterview tract into an overlay zone that would permit RD Realty to build on the site a proposed retail-residential complex, which would include a Whole Foods Market, a big-box retailer and a townhouse community.
Purzycki said the town's 2012 Money Magazine ranking as the 15th best small town in the U.S. was not earned by bringing more development to the municipality. She said that in the past, retail, commercial and residential land use was kept largely separate, allowing a high quality of life in the area.
She mentioned battles in the 1980s that took place over a proposal to develop the Waterview tract.
"People spoke out then," she said. "They wanted their residential areas separated from their offices and commercial areas because they wanted to have a nice, quiet area to live in and to raise their kids and to know it was safe. They didn't want the development that was coming."
The residents won those battles, Purzycki said, because government listened to its citizens.
Now, those who live nearest Waterview—many of them CSHW members—are fighting again. And Purzycki said that it appears the present town administration is not listening to citizens' concerns over traffic, pollution and a potentially diminished quality of life.
"[Residents] didn't want it then, and I don't think they want it now," she said, warning that if Waterview is developed, the town won't be the 15th best place to live anymore.
Lake Hiawatha resident Nicholas Homyak called the Planning Board "narrow-minded" for recommending that the council approve rezoning the 26.6 acres of the 132-acre Waterview site.
He accused the board of caring too much for business interests while ignoring the environment and the wishes of residents.
"I don't think we have one member knowlegeable about the ecology or environmentalism or biodiversity who sits on that board," he said.
Homyak said he had a copy of a Rutgers University study concerning water quality and recharge.
"The purpose of this study, that was for the benefit of the public of the state of New Jersey for the future of the aquifer that is underneath our feet [and Waterview], was to maximize the benefit of living in this watershed and how to live with it," he said. "In the report, the very area of Waterview Park is mentioned specifically to address the issues of loss of biodiversity and its purpose as a recharge area."
Homyak also criticized developer RD Realty for not producing "one map with contours" or "one study" that shows what he believes is the true danger the proposed mixed-use project presents for the aquifer, for nearby wetland transition zones, for natural species of trees and wildlife and for maintaining clean, safe drinking water for Parsippany, Mountain Lakes and other nearby municipalities.
"It's an insult to the community, and the Planning Board...should realize everything has limits. Parsippany has reached its limits. We should be in a post-development phase, not playing word games to [allow] rezoning."
The council could not comment on Purzycki's or Homyak's statements. as no ordinance regarding the Waterview project and a proposed rezoning has yet been drafted. Such an ordinance is expected to be ready for its first reading before the council at its March 19 meeting at Parsippany Hills High School.