Montclair is moving ahead with its survey of the Estate section, site of some of the township’s largest and oldest houses, with the possibility of declaring it a Local Landmark area. 

In April, the township received a $24,999 grant from the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office to conduct a Local Landmark study.

A Local Landmark designation is given to neighborhoods or groups of buildings that have been deemed to have historic or architectural significance. 

Under the town’s ordinance for alterations of a structure in a Local Landmark district, homeowners could be required to apply for a certificate of appropriateness when making changes to their facades, with plans needing the approval of the Historic Preservation Commission.

A certificate of appropriateness is issued for any major modifications to a house that can be visible from the street.

On July 13, field workers from the survey company E2 Project Management started reviewing houses in the Estate section, which is located in the southwest corner of Montclair and the Third Ward. The area of study runs north-south from Hoburg Place to the West Orange town line, and east-west from Eagle Rock Way, South Mountain Avenue and Stonebridge Road to Eagle Rock Reservation.  The section’s streets include South Mountain Avenue, Eagle Rock Way, Lloyd Road, Undercliff Road, Llewellyn Road and Stonebridge Road. 

“Although the Estate area exhibits a wide range of architectural styles and features, the area reflects a unique pattern of development and siting. Prominent architectural materials within the area include wood, brick and stucco. Common architectural styles include Queen Anne, shingle, Tudor revival and colonial revival,” according to a description of the area on the township website. 

The survey looks at the exterior of the houses in addition to the historic development pattern of the area. 

Kathleen Bennett, of the Historic Preservation Commission, said she believed that all of the photography for the survey had been completed as of July 31. Photos of houses in the survey area were taken from the driveway, so the surveyors do not set foot on residents’ properties, she said.

The survey work is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, said Graham Petto, the assistant township planner. 

“The HPC will receive a presentation of the survey work by the consultant, and the HPC will review the results of the survey work,” Petto said. 

However, Bennett said, there could be a complication in that the local history room at the Montclair Public Library is inaccessible due to the library buildings still being closed. She said access was being looked into, but that it was possible that the completion of the survey could be pushed back if the research was delayed.

The library has online newspaper archives of the Montclair Times and other periodicals, which provide information on some of the houses in question. Additionally, Bennett said, the Junior League of Montclair-Newark has done its own studies in the past on some of the homes in the Estate section. 

The HPC will review the data and have its own discussion at a subsequent meeting.

Bennett emphasized that the survey did not in itself constitute a decision on Local Landmark status. 

In November, the township considered Local Landmark status for the Wheeler Street and Oakcroft Avenue neighborhoods. However, residents from both areas objected, saying that the status would make it more difficult and more expensive to do maintenance and renovations.

The township is now looking at making changes to the design guidelines for Local Landmark areas, including what renovations homeowners could make to their homes. Petto said the township filed for a grant application for the project to the New Jersey Certified Local Government program in January, and expects to know soon if it is approved. 

If so, the township will hire a consultant to review the guidelines and make recommendations, Petto said.