Council listens to citizens; Waterview voted down

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At the Tuesday, October 1 Parsippany-Troy Hills council meeting, the council members voted down the Waterview Overlay Ordinance (know as Ordinance No. 2013:28), by at 3-2 vote. Councilman Michael J. dePierro and Councilman Vincent Ferrara voted yes for the overlay change. Councilman dePierro also sits on the Township’s Planning Board.

It’s been clear from the beginning that this was not the right project for Parisppany. Listening to the public comments that were both overwhelmingly opposed and overwhelmingly from Parsippany residents, I’m glad that the council had the courage to stand up to big development and made a decision that was in the best interest of those they truly represent. This was a great night for local government and an even better night for the thousands of people whose lives would have been horribly impacted by this ridiculously aggressive proposal, said Dave Kaplan, President of Citizens for Health, Safety & Welfare.

Requests for comments from Mayor James Barberio were unanswered, as well as from the attorney’s representing the project.

“Whole Foods is a great company. I’d love to have them here but in a development plan that is in keeping with our land use Master Plan,” said Former Mayor Mimi Letts.

RD Realty first presented to the Planning Board the concept of a overlay zone on September 13, 2012 to change 26.6 acres, presently a POD (Planned Office Development) to permit a mixed-use retail/commercial/residential development, known as the RCR Overlay district. The Planning Board first public hearing was on November 19, 2012.

The purpose of the RCR Overlay District was to provide a complementary development alternative permitting the establishment of a planned mixed-use retail/commercial/residential development at Block 421 Lot 29, with frontage along U.S. Route 46. Such a development at this location will serve to improve the provision of goods and services and modern residential housing for residents of Parsippany-Troy Hills and the surrounding area. This location in the New Jersey State Plan Metropolitan Planning Area designation, is adjacent to developed utility services and in direct proximity to the regional transportation network of roadways including Routes 46, 287 and 80 and corresponding mass transit opportunities. The RCR Overlay District complements the intent of the underlying POD Zoning District; developed in concert with the surrounding physical and environmental features in its criteria, with specific consideration given to the surrounding neighborhood development pattern.

At the August 20 meeting The Parsippany-Troy Hills Township Council approved a controversial rezoning ordinance, known as Ordinance No. 2013:28, on first reading with over 500 members of the community, both for and against the Waterview project. At that time, the proposal was sent back to the Planning Board for review, and then approved on Monday, September 9 and referred back to the Council for final passage. At the following Council meeting, on Tuesday, September 17, the Council listened to public comment. The public portion of the session was continued on Tuesday, October 1 and the Council rendered the decision.

Citizens for Health, Safety & Welfare is the non-profit organization spearheaded the opposition of the project, a group comprised of Mountain Lakes residents, Parsippany residents, and concerned individuals from neighboring towns. The group’s trustees estimate that 500 or more households have come together to support the cause. The citizens group is a New Jersey non-profit organization with three trustees, a 9-person board of directors (president, vice presidents, secretary, treasurer), with no official “membership.”

The revised ordinance will permit rezoning of that tract of land in the Waterview Complex. The proposed project would include a 40,000-square-foot supermarket, likely Whole Foods, and a 137,000-square-foot “big box” department store (originally rumored to be Target). For the residential portion of the project, the developer is seeking to build a neighborhood of townhouses—first 72 units, but then reduced to 65. The ordinance will allow the construction of parking lots for more than 1,100 cars and increase the amount of allowable impermeable surface from 45 percent (what the current POD zoning allows) to 75 percent.

By covering the area with asphalt and sidewalk, rather than keeping the trees, plants and soil that soak up rain water for the aquifer, water is prevented from being absorbed and has to flow somewhere else—along with all of the possible pollutants from cars, people and buildings.

Also at stake was the quality of life and property values for local residents. Part of RD Realty’s plan was to create two more lanes on both eastbound and westbound sides of Route 46 to accommodate increased traffic and potentially channel surplus traffic onto Route 202, a proposed access road to Intervale Road, and Boulevard in Mountain Lakes.

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Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989. Covering a wide range of events. Executive Board Member Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce. President-Elect Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany. Former Chairman of Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board.

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