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Whole Foods Plan Bad for Environment, Group Says

Residents of Parsippany and nearby towns voice concerns to Mountain Lakes officials.

The debate surrounding the Parsippany Planning Board's consideration of a plan to turn the Route 46 Waterview Plaza—now zoned for office space—into a mixed-use overlay zone took a road trip Monday evening to Mountain Lakes Borough Hall. 

Members of Don't Rezone Waterview come from Parsippany, Mountain Lakes and other nearby towns that vehemently oppose a proposal by RD Realty to put a Whole Foods Market on 26 undeveloped acres at Waterview, along with another big retailer and a 72-unit townhouse community. A group of township residents, including Parsippany Councilman Paul Carifi Jr. and Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce President Robert J. Peluso, attended a meeting of the Mountain Lakes Borough Council, where the Mountain Lakes Environmental Commission offered its view regarding the Parsippany development plan.

That view, as presented by the commision's Jackie Bay, turned out to be a dim one. 

Bay reported to the Borough Council that the commision's research and investigation of RD Realty's concept plan could bring a host of ills to both Mountain Lakes and Parsippany, including traffic, noise and light pollution; a diminishment of water quality of the stream that runs along Parsippany's Intervale Road, which borders the borough and a reduction in quality of life.

"For over 100 years, residents of Mountain Lakes have treasured the wooded, peaceful character of our town," she said, calling her municipality "an oasis within an increasingly urban New Jersey."

She said that if the project goes forward, the atmosphere will change for residents, especially those on the east side of the borough.

"Now a neighborhood known for turkey crossings and abundant wildlife, it will become 'the neighborhood next to the shopping complex.'"

Bay pointed out that the project violates Parsippany's own master plan, which discourages big box development and argues for broad buffers.

The commission also found that the development could create significant environmental harm for both Parsippany and Mountain Lakes. Bay noted that by paving over 75 percent of 26.6 acres of the Waterview tract, the groundwater supply could be harmed, causing great difficulty for both towns.

"The additional demand related to this high-density project will increase demand," Bay cautioned. " Mountain Lakes and Parsippany are both already under mandatory water restrictions from June through September."

She added that the Waterview aquifer, which provides clean water to both towns, could be contaminated by concentrated pollutants coming in from pavement runoff and by development that brings hazardous chemicals near the wellheads. Bay also noted that RD Realty's concept plan requests an exemption from Parsippany's Wellhead Protection Ordinance.

"The Environmental Committee of Parsippany can only provide a point of view if requested to do so by [the Township Council], [and] that request has not been made," she said, adding that being a commission, it has the freedom to speak publicly on the matter. " As a good neighbor, we feel it is imperative that we speak out."

Bay also pointed to regulations governing the Wateview tract's present status as an area zoned for office space. According to Parsippany law, she said, access to traffic is not permitted along Intervale Road frontage. 

"The new overlay zoning ordinance makes no mention of prohibiting access, however, it does prohibit access onto Forest Road in Parsippany," she said. "We believe that if this project is approved, access from the development onto Intervale Road is inevitable."

Members of the audience were given an opportunity to comment.

Parsippany Councilman Carifi congratulated residents for standing up and speaking ot on issues that affect them.

Nancy DuTertre, the Mountain Lakes liaison to the Parsippany grassroots group Don't Rezone Waterview, warned that the language proposed for the Waterview overlay is written "ambiguously," leaving a fear that the nearly 27-acre plan could be extended to the entire 132 acres of the Waterview tract.

"This could turn the entire property into a strip mall nightmare," she said.

Retired attorney and Mountain Lakes resident Griffith Jones offered examples of case law involving Marlborough Township's ultimately successful suit against the Palmdale Planning Board in a matter regarding a land use proposal determined to present a threat to Palmdale's neighboring municipality.

"I advise planning boards to take responsibility in protecting residents from [development proposals] that can have an impact on adjacent communities," he said.

Robert Peluso stood and talked of how, as president of the Parsippany Chamber and as a township resident, he has supported smart development that respects the master plan and the concerns of citizens.

Mountain Lakes Mayor Dan Happer said he appreciated hearing all of the comments and information presented. He said the Borough Council for the time being will stay abreast of developments in the matter.

Parsippany and Mountain Lakes residents are expected to turn out in huge numbers for the next Parsippany Planning Board meeting, which is set for Feb. 11 at Parsippany High School.

Harland February 03, 2013 at 08:34 PM
The developer has disclosed everything else up to this point. Whatever the other store is, it must be something really undesireable.
ForWhatItsWorth February 04, 2013 at 02:51 PM
I am all for Whole Foods coming to the area.. I work in Parsippany and hope it goes through.
k hurley February 04, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Whole Foods is NOT the problem. The problem is the distruction of 27 wooded acres when there are 100's of thousands of square feet of tenant space already developed and available. Would you feel different if the potential tenant wasn't Whole Foods????? Rumor has it they're already back-peddeling. Get ready for more empty store fronts that property taxes will have to cover.......
Green February 05, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Great idea Dave! It would be a perfect spot for a Whole Foods store. Use the building that's already there - that's better for the environment. It would be possible to walk from Lake Parsippany to buy organic foods, which is something I miss right now. Instead of building new projects, I would love to see pedestrian bridges across route 46. That would boost the local economy by easing access to businesses on both sides of the highway. Follow Denville's example....
Peggy Fitzpatrick February 05, 2013 at 10:37 PM
As for me, I also shop at Whole Foods but do NOT want this zoning change to be granted. I would rather continue going to Madison, West Orange or Morristown (soon to have a new Whole Foods in the old A&P grocery store building- imagine that... a town using empty space in a responsible way). Perhaps you would not endorse this zoning change if it was to be imposed on your backyard or neighborhood. I think you need to be better informed to the negative impact this development will have on the people who live there. But even if you insist on thinking only of your own convenience, if the developer gets his way you could buy a home on Forest Drive and you could walk to the entire strip mall whether Whole Foods is there or not.

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