A developer was sent back to the Historic Preservation Commission to develop a material other than vinyl.
COURTESY PLANNING OFFICE
BY KELLY NICHOLAIDES
for Montclair Local
Vinyl siding is a deal breaker for homes in “potential” historic Montclair areas, even though the structures may not have historical value, say land use regulator critics.
The owner of an investment property at 133 Forest Street received zoning board approval on June 19 to replace an abandoned, shabby 1907 home with a new two-family home. However, the chamber sent the petitioner back to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) because they objected to the vinyl siding the developer wanted to use. The house is one of 71 on the city’s register of vacant and abandoned properties. It is also located in a “potential historic district”.
The board’s decision underscores the problem of real estate investors buying abandoned homes only to be pushed back by the Historic Preservation Commission. The commission examined the application and had over a dozen recommendations.
“This is a potential historic resource, but it is not listed as a Historic Landmark or in a Historic District. It is therefore inappropriate for the HPC to have an approving authority. It is not their responsibility. It’s almost like saying that the list of 13 HPC Recommendations is requirements. I think this is legally wrong, ”said Attorney Alan Trembulak, who represents 133 Forest St., LLC.
The 4,995-square-foot lot sits on a 0.11-acre, 33-foot, narrow lot that is characteristic of lots in the area, but does not meet the 60-foot minimum lot requirements. Exceptions were granted for the size of the property and intersections for a shared driveway that led to three parking spaces in the rear area.
“It’s an undersized lot with a structure that has been classified as unsafe. My client wants to demonstrate the existing structure and build a new two-family house, which is undoubtedly an improvement on what is now, ”said Trembulak.
Each of the proposed units in the two-family house would have a living, dining and kitchen area on the first floor. two bedrooms on the second floor; and a storage space on the third floor.
HPC Representative John Reimnitz said the commission was struggling with vinyl siding and other architectural design elements like the lack of a roof overhang.
“Overall, our suggestion is to simplify things and remove the visual noise. The highest severity of the building is not required. Bring it down and that would improve the facade, ”said Reimnitz.
Jay Church, Zoning board member, had mixed feelings.
“At first glance I would be in favor because it could improve the neighborhood, but the applicant is reluctant to follow some of the HPC recommendations. The vinyl siding would restore the property to what it was, but it wouldn’t improve it, ”Church said, adding that he was in favor of allowing a variance for property size and parking.
Board member Kevin Allen said he appreciates the HPC very much and that the building should look historic.
Board member Thomas Reynolds said, “I wish we could find more impervious excess to break up the sidewalk. I have mixed feelings about increasing it to the size of the first floor. “
The application would improve the property and make it more attractive than what is currently in place. A common driveway is a logical solution [for parking]added William Harrison, Chairman of the Zoning Board.
“You should have the application sent back to the HPC, which understands some problems and is better at solving them, rather than us trying to redesign a building on the fly,” said Harrison.
Deviations were granted for the setback in the side courtyard and the common driveway to parking. Enclosure elements needed to show a neat separation of the two units, not just an even wall along the side, Harrison said.
“There is an older housing stock on Forest Street and the vinyl siding would stand out a lot. Ultimately, it is our decision, but to the extent that you are dissatisfied, you can always come back here. This area takes a lot of TLC to be a healthy and vibrant neighborhood. You need to return to the HPC with revised plans. If there is no agreement, you can come back here, ”said Harrison.
Architect Serdar Kayman said using other materials instead of vinyl siding would pose a budget problem for his client. He also found that the existing structure on site is structurally deficient and uninhabitable.