Tuesday night’s public hearing was continued from the last council meeting, and like the last one, several hundred people filled the auditorium of Parsippany Hills High School for the continued public hearing and council vote on the controversial Waterview Rezoning ordinance.
After about 70 people—most opposing the issue—came forward to voice their opinions on why the Parsippany-Troy Council should not pass the ordinance, the council shut down the proposal with a 3-2 vote.
Paul Carifi Jr, Jonathan Nelson and President Brian Stanton voted against
passing the ordinance, which would have which rezoned
a tract of land in the Waterview complex where a Whole Foods store was proposed.
Councilman Michael dePierro and Council Vice President Vincent Ferrara voted in favor of the ordinance, followed by Carifi and Nelson voting against it. With the tiebreaking vote, Stanton said ‘No’ because the most important thing was “compromise and it just isn’t there.”
He said that when the Waterview property was purchased, Owner Belle Meade “knew what they were buying and knew what it was zoned for … The major thing for me is the Master Plan. I’m not willing to open the door to change the Master Plan because once … you open the door, it’s open forever.”
Stanton added that of the public that spoke out, a vast majority opposed the project.Mayor James Barberio said, "Now that the council has rejected the overlay zone. I have to tell you that I'm scared of what's coming next, I truly am."
"Because as Councilman Michael diPierro said, it's not going to get any better. I want to make a recommendation to the Open Space Committee to purchase this property," said Barberio.
DePierro said that the “demand” for office space is no longer there and “the development (owner) came to that realization too and was willing to sell … That land is going to be developed.”
DePierro said that years ago, there was a proposal to turn the Waterview land into a ‘town center’ with cobblestone streets, lampposts, offices, boutiques and apartments. A few years later, senior housing was proposed at the same place.
“But some of these same residents who are here tonight were vehemently opposed” to the two previous proposals “and asked the township to listen to them and we turned (those proposals) down,” said dePierro. “This is application No. 3. If you notice, the applications are not getting better .. I guarantee you, you are not going to like application No. 4.”
He added that he’s “afraid that if we vote this down” it may turn into low-income housing. “I have never seen the courts rule against low-income housing … I’m not opposed to low-income housing … but what I’m afraid of is a high cluster of … low-income housing that can produce problems that I do not want to see in your neighborhoods or in mine. I believe I’m voting for this to save your development.”
“I sympathize with the union workers but I feel that making improvements to existing retail space that we have that we need to fill” is important and through research that he’s done, “there is no doubt that there will be an increase in crime … traffic. Our environmental committee got up and spoke saying that this is not good for our town. This project is going to affect the smaller stores that we have in town and I don’t want to see them go out of business,” said Carifi.
Carifi said that he’s voting ‘No’ because the project’s negative effect on residents outweigh the benefits.
“On the one side, we have the property owner who undoubtedly has the right to build on his land … the developer, who has spent a lot of time and money invested in hopes that this ordinance is passed. On the other side, we have the residents of the town of Parsippany … there’s really a minority of residents that would be affected on a daily basis,” said Nelson.
At Tuesday’s meeting, there were quite a few Mountain Lakes residents who spoke up. Nelson said that he was elected by the people of Parsippany and not Mountain Lakes “however, I’m also considerate that no man is an island … and this does border Mountain Lakes.”
Nelson said that redevelopment is a part of Parsippany’s future.
Ultimately, he voted against the ordinance because “I have to vote what is important for the entire township … there is just too much trying to be squeezed into this plot of land … I think this whole project from Day 1 has been handled terrible and I hope that the developer comes back and engages with the people who are most affected and tries to work out a compromise that the people of Parsippany can live with and the developer can make a profit.”
Stanton echoed Nelson’s comments and said that he hopes the developer returns with a compromise.
Township Attorney John Inglesino addressed some of the legal questions that were raised during the Waterview process, such as spot zoning and conflicts of interest.
At a previous planning board meeting, Herold Law Attorney Rob Simon brought up a possible conflict of interest with Township Planner Ed Snieckus for advising both the township council and the planning board on the proposed Waterview development.
Inglesino sited a “statutory provision that is unique to lawyers” that “prohibits the planning board from appointing the municipal attorney as its counsel … it does not prohibit planners, traffic engineers or other professionals from serving both town and planning boards,” thus there is no conflict of interest said Inglesino.
Another legal question Ingelsino brought up pertained to the petition signed by the Mountain Lakes council requiring the Waterview ordinance to have a super majority vote to pass.
Inglesino said that there is a property law that “gives the people the power to change the number of votes required to pass the ordinance from the majority (three votes) to a two-thirds majority (four votes) … The petition would need to be signed by 20 percent or more of the owners of the lots or land extending 200 feet in all directions” of the “affected property.”
Inglesino said that this brought up the question of whether or not Mountain Lakes owns Intervale Road.
“You can have somebody owning the land, yet have the road dedicated to public use … Ownership is requirement to have protest rights. Since this group has not demonstrated that Intervale Road is owned by Mountain Lakes, Intervale Road is not to be included for purposes of protest rights,” said Inglesino, adding that only three votes are needed, not four.
Related Patch Articles:
- Should Parsippany Rezone Waterview?
- Waterview Still Raises Concerns for Officials, Residents
- Waterview Proposal May Bring $1.14M in Tax Revenue
- Waterview Proposal Benefits Balance Master Plan Inconsistencies, Planner Says
- Proposed Waterview Development: Traffic Impact are …Non-Existent
- Controversial Waterview Development Decision Delayed
- Waterview Development Receives Planning Board Approval
- Waterview Plan Poses Potential Conflict for Parsippany Planner, says Attorney
- Survey: 63% of Residents Support Waterview Development