SCOPING HEARING FOR DISPOSAL OF BLOCK 4301/LOT 6, HANOVER TOWNSHIP
Park Commission Ownership of Block 4301/Lot 6, Hanover Township
The Morris County Park Commission acquired the 6.472-acre Block 4301/Lot 6, Hanover Township from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation on December 21, 2011 for $5,000.00. (click for Deed) The property was specifically acquired to further the continuation of Patriots’ Path and was funded with the Commission’s allocation of Morris County Open Space Trust Funds. The deed provides for the following restriction:
- To be used for Park and Recreation Use: Deed only permits land to be disposed of with approval of the Commissioner of the NJDEP and the State House Commission pursuant to N.J.S.A. 13:8C-1 et seq.(Garden State Preservation Trust Fund Act) and N.J.A.C. 7:36 (NJ Green Acres Rules and Regulations).
The lot, is encumbered with a slope easement for the widening of Parsippany Road, Drainage Easement, Sanitary Sewer Easement and tree trimming easement.
Patriots’ Path was never constructed or maintained on this lot which was left in its natural state due to severe riverbank erosion caused by Hurricane Irene(2011) and Hurricane Sandy(2012). (click for Erosion images) If the trailhead been constructed it would have been an estimated 1,300 linear feet with a natural tread material. On one end it would connect with Patriots’ Path on Eden Lane and the other access point would have been along Parsippany Road.
River Park Redevelopment Plan
In 2018, representatives of the proposed River Park Redevelopment project (click for River Park Town Center-Conceptual Images) located at Block 3801/Lot 2, Hanover Township reached out to the Park Commission expressing interest in accessing Block 4301/Lot 6 to provide improved access to its redevelopment site. An entrance road would cross Block 4301/Lot 6 and a bridge over the Whippany River would be constructed to access Block 3801/Lot 2. As new owners, of the property they would be responsible for improvements to the severely eroded riverbank on Block 4301/Lot 6.
One of the Goals & Objectives for the redevelopment plan is to:
- Implement a critical component of the Patriots’ Path pedestrian network adjacent to the Whippany River.
- Patriots’ Path shall be designed in compliance with the requirements of the Morris County Park Commission for surface materials, width and related amenities.
- The Path shall be connected by pathways to the sidewalks in the Town Center Area providing an interconnected system of walkways.
Since 2018 the Morris County Park Commission has carefully considered the disposal of this parkland intended for the continuation of Patriots’ Path and has determined that it is in the best interest of the residents of Morris County to pursue the disposal of the 6.472-acre lot. In order to do so the Park Commission must follow New Jersey Green Acres Rules and Regulations, Subchapter 26 Standards and Procedures for Commissioner and State House Commission approval of the Disposal or Diversion of Funded or Unfunded Parkland (7:36-26.1(a)). The disposal of parkland must meet a compelling public need , yield a significant public benefit or provide an exceptional recreational and/or conservation benefit.
- Compelling public need or yield a significant public benefit:
- Mitigate a hazard to public health, safety or welfare
- As part of the River Park Redevelopment plan the severe riverbank erosion on Block 4301/Lot 6 will be stabilized to reduce further erosion that could undermine the structures of the Oak Ridge Condominium Association. There is a potential that sometime in the future the Oak Ridge Condominium Association would need part of Block 4301/Lot 6 to stabilize its structures, which would also necessitate the diversion or disposal of parkland.
- Improving delivery of essential services to the public or to a segment of the public having a special need.
- As noted above the redevelopment plan includes the construction of Patriots Path (approximately 5,750 linear feet) on Block 3801/Lot 2 which do to the topography has the opportunity to meet ADA standards.
- The redevelopment plan includes the construction of inclusionary development as defined by the Fair Housing Act.
- Provide an exceptional recreation or conservation benefit, substantially improving the quantity and quality of parkland.
- Approximately 5,750 linear feet of Patriots’ Path will be constructed(10’ wide and paved) to replace what was to have been 1,250 linear feet of trail constructed on Block 4301/Lot 6 which will not happen due to the unsafe river bank erosion. The cost of stabilizing the riverbank to a public agency is prohibitive compared to the construction of 1,300 linear feet of natural tread trail.
- Following the NJ Green Acres Rules and Regulations the 6.472-acres of parkland to disposed will be replaced at a 4:1 land replacement value.
- The stabilization of nearly 325 linear feet of riverbank will stabilize the slope, which will reduce further silting of the Whippany River.
- Mitigate a hazard to public health, safety or welfare
The Morris County Park Commission does not make the final determination on whether the parkland is disposed, that responsibility is with the New Jersey State House Commission and the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Commission. The Scoping Hearing is just the first step in the process to dispose of parkland, the next step is to submit a pre-application to Green Acres and if approved a final application will completed with a second opportunity for the public to comment before the application moves on to the State House Commission for its determination.