The Parsippany-Troy Hills Township Council approved a controversial rezoning ordinance on first reading with well over 500 members of the community, both for and against the rezoning, during Tuesday's meeting.
The ordinance, which rezones a tract of land in the Waterview complex was passed on first reading in a 3-1 vote after a colorful two and a half hour meeting complete with applause, shouting, cheers, hisses and boos from both sides of the issue.
The rezoning changes the area to a mixed retail, commercial and residential overlay district which paves the way for a potential development of a 26.6-acre tract in what is currently a part of the 132-acre property known as the Waterview Corporate Park. A developer, RDR, plans to build a Whole Foods Market and townhouse community on the tract.
The next step, said Township Attorney John Inglesino, is for the proposal to go before the Planning Board for a decision on whether or not it is consistent with the town's master plan. It would then come back before the council for a presentation by the township planner on traffic issues and fiscal impact, as well as comments from the public and a final vote.
In attendance of Tuesday's meeting were members of a local opposition group, Citizens for Health, Safety and Welfare, made up of Parsippany and Mountain Lakes residents, has opposed the development since it was first proposed.
The group previously said they would try to prevent the Township Council from acting on the ordinance by flooding the meeting with enough people to exceed the maximum capacity and have it shut down. However, the auditorium holds approximately 1,200 people and they fell drastically short.
Also in attendance were union members who came out in support of the project.
In total, about 30 members of the community appraoched the microphone during the public portion of the meeting both to slam and speak in favor of the Waterview development proposal.
The opposition opined that the project will have negative impacts on the township such as traffic, pollution, noise, crime, flooding and a plethora of other problems.
“I have a lot of concerns such as the pollution, traffic, noise and everything that's going to go along with it,” said Bob Sudol who's house sits within 200 feet of the proposed property. “The fact that Whole Foods and two box stores means that this area is going to be busy 24/7, 365 days a year. This is impacting not only myself but all my neighbors.”
He is also concerned about water runoff onto his and his neighbor's properties from impervious surface from the blacktop, he said.
Inglesino answered that the applicant will be compelled by law to prove that it will meet New Jersey Division of Environmental Protection regulations and not create water runoff to adjacent properties.
“The last meeting I attended here there were very serious concerns for having ample police to do the job that has always been done and been done well,” said Ron Owens of Intervale Road.
He also asked the council who had read the studies on how many police officers would be needed if the proposal were to go through.
“There is no doubt there will be an increase in crime,” said Councilman Paul Carifi, Jr. but Barberio said the township will conduct its own study.
Those in support of the proposed development expressed that the project will bring work to Parsippany as well as positive impacts on taxes and ratables.
“People have families in Parsippany that have an extra part-time job that gets them through their life and gets them food to feed their families,” said Mayor James Barberio in response to a comment about the new jobs only being temporary or part-time.
“I find it hard to pay my taxes now with a job,” said Arne Berg, a Halsey Road resident of 54 years. “The taxes from this place is supposed to be around $20 to $22 million in 20 years, there's a study on that. I don't want to lose that ratable. We need money for the town, the schools and the police.”
Councilmen Michael DePierro, Jonathan Nelson and Council President Brian Stanton voted in favor of approal for first reading. Councilman Paul Carifi, Jr. voted against. Council Vice President Vincent Ferrara was absent from the meeting.
“I have stated that all along we should be filling our retail and offices spaces that we have and we need to refurbish, reconstruct what we have which would in turn bring work for union workers,” said Carifi. “That being said, like I stated from the very beginning I feel that the impact on the quality of life to the residents of Parsippany far outweighs the positives for this project and I vote no.”
“An introduction is not adoption, we are not voting on the ordinacne,” said Nelson explaining his affirmative vote. “Many times ordinances are introduced and they are not passed so be mindful of that.”
The ordinance is up for second reading and adoption at the Sept. 17 meeting including a presentation and public comment. The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Parsippany Hills High School.