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Revised Mountain Way Plan Goes Before Zoning Board

New townhouse development proposal still a concern, Preserve Mountain Way founder says.

The township Zoning Board of Adjustment takes up a revised version of the previously rejected 700 Mountain Way townhouse proposal at its Wednesday meeting at Town Hall. And opponents to the Edward Mosberg development plan are gearing up to resume their battle against it.

The new proposal reduces the number of townhome units from 22, the number stated in the plan rejected by the board, said attorney Robert Garofalo of Garofalo & O'Neill, the law firm representing the developer.

"The revised application is for 20 townhomes," Garofalo said. "This avoids any of the critical slope variances that were previously required, and there are no other variances other than the density."

In May 2011, professional planner John McDonough testified before the ZBA and conceded the project would increase population density in excess of what is permitted under zoning laws. He said that the benefits of the proposed development—uniqueness of architecture, its status as affordable housing and what he claimed as the sustainability of multi-family housing—outweighed the density issue.

Garofalo said that the revised project retains elements to make 700 Mountain Way beneficial for the intended location, which is near single-family homes along Mountain Way, Rocky Heights and South Powder Mill Road.

"The project is more than adequately landscaped and is very compatible with the area," said the attorney. "This had been testified to by McDonough, the planner,  and our engineer."

The revision is not easing the minds of those who oppose the development.

Rick Jilleba of Preserve Mountain Way, a group of citizens opposed to the townhouse proposal, said his grassroots organization plans to fight back.

"We remain concerned that even though our expert witness decimated the applicant's case for townhouses, here we are again, faced with a 20-unit plan," Jilleba told Patch.

The citizen-activist said he and the opposition believe their case holds, pointing to testimony given by Preserve Mountain Way's side in 2011.

"Our case dismantled the applicant's assertion that there was a need for townhouses and that 700 Mountain Way was suited/appropriate for townhouses," Jilleba said. "Our oppostion is not unit number-based, so whether the plan calls for 22 units or 20 units or 18 units, the application is neither needed nor an appropriate use of the land for multi-unit dwellings."

Preserve Mountain Way again will be represented by land use planner David Zimmerman. Jilleba said Zimmerman will re-evaluate the 20 unit plan on Wednesday.

"After Mr. Zimmerman's evaluation, we are hoping that the ZBA will allow him to present his observations and conclusions at a future session," he said.

Jilleba insisted that residents' opposition to the plan is not a statement that the developer does not have a right to profit from the use of the land he owns.

"However, when the land was puchased, it was zoned for single family, large-lot homes," he said. "We feel the 700 Mountain Way LLC business plan should be consistent with single family zoning."

 He added that in addition to Zimmerman, the opposition group will have its own attorney to plead its case, Lou Rago of Morristown.

Even with a vocal group of residents fighting the project, Garofalo said his clent's revised plan should proceed.

"We are looking for a favorable response from the board," he said. "Quite frankly, we have taken into careful consideration the comments of the public and have incorporated them into the plan."

The drop to 20 units is not the first change to the Mosberg application. When it was first introduced, the plan was for 38 townhomes targeted to people 55 years of age and up. It later was reduced to 22 and had its age restriction removed in reaction to citizen concerns.

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