The Parsippany Planning Board Monday finally approved a concept plan that could bring Whole Foods Market, a big box retailer and a 65-unit townhouse community to Waterview Plaza.
More than 600 residents came to Parsippany High School for a special hearing on the proposed Waterview development. Many stood in long lines for a turn at a microphone to comment on the proposed RD Realty development project. Most offered harsh critiques of the plan. Still, the board voted 8-1 to recommend that the Township Council draft an ordinance to turn 26.6 acres of the tract zoned for office space into an overlay zone.
The lone dissenting vote came from board member Turan Ayaz.
Certain conditions went along with the vote: The concept was allowed to move ahead for the subject property as long as the developer limits maximum residential density for the townhouses to six units per acre, ensures no access to nearby Intervale Road, a minimum buffer of 50 feet between the Waterview zone and the adjoining one and a maximum height of 35 feet.
Conflict was the watchword of the night from the very beginning of the meeting. Some audience members loudly booed and jeered, mocked an unemployed man—the only resident to speak for the plan—who said the project would bring jobs to Parsippany–and some even threatened Mayor James Barberio that approval could hurt his chances at re-election.
Passions ran high at the public microphone. Two uniformed Parsippany Police officers were on duty to keep the peace. On a few occasions the officers were called upon to remove residents from the microphone when their comments exceeded the three-minute limit imposed on residents by board Chair Kaushik "Casey" Parikh.
"We're having police escort people out for going past three minutes?" asked an incredulous Felix Demicco to applause. "What the hell kind of thing is that?"
The audience, some of them members of the grassroots group Don't Rezone Waterview, seemed almost entirely in opposition to the plan.
The rancor began after the group's just-hired attorney started to address the Planning Board and informed the members that according to law, they had no jurisdiction in a concept review case, a view dismissed by the board.
Parsippany resident Felix Demicco closed the public comment section with a plea that earned him a standing ovation.
"Please help us. You're our representatives, not the developer's representatives," he said. "We need you to look out for us. We hope you make a recommendation to the council that they do not rezone Waterview."