Montclair couple proposes subdivision on Upper Mountain lot
COURTESY PLANNING DEPARTMENT
Owners of a large property on Upper Mountain Avenue are proposing a subdivision of their 2-acre lot for a second time.
Jonathan and Melissa Goidel first applied for the subdivision at 264 Upper Mountain Ave. in July 2019, but then in October of that year pulled the proposal from the Montclair Planning Board agenda.
But the plan resurfaced at the Historic Preservation Commission, which heard the application on April 14. Planning reports state that the lot is located in the proposed Mountain Historic District and therefore would require input from the commission on the subdivision and any future development on the new lot.
As it stands now, the property is a contiguous lot, with the existing home and front yard facing Upper Mountain Avenue, and the backyard running through to Highland Avenue.
The applicants’ attorney, Lisa John-Basat, contested that the new lot would be in a historic designation area. She showed a map from a National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the area that ends the lot’s designation area where the proposed division would occur. The township’s online Historic Inventory Viewer has the entire property falling within a state or national register historic district.
The oddly shaped lot has 192 feet of frontage on Upper Mountain Avenue and 182 feet of frontage on Highland Avenue, and runs a little more than 544 feet deep. Taxes are currently about $65,146, according to tax records.
The couple plans to maintain the1906 home on Upper Mountain Avenue, on a proposed lot 192 feet wide by 371 feet deep, and would meet lot size zoning requirements. A lot newly created by the subdivision would be 182 feet wide and 151 feet deep, where 227 feet depth is required.
Although the applicant presented in the subdivision plans a rendering of a home that could be built on the new lot, John-Basat said there are no immediate plans to build on the property.
“It’s just a concept. ... We are not proposing a house right now,” John-Basat said, adding that when the subdivision was first proposed, neighbors on Highland Avenue questioned if a home could be built on the property, which contains steep slopes and is in a designated steep-slope area.
The 264 Upper Mountain Ave. property is the only lot on Upper Mountain Avenue that runs through to Highland Avenue between Ingleside Road and Englewood Road. Houses along Highland Avenue are nestled down into the sloping properties on lots that range from 63 to 275 feet wide, with depths of 155 to 265 feet.
Although the township planner, in her report, questioned whether the new lot would be buildable due to steep sloping, Historic Preservation Commission member John Reimnitz, who lives in a home on Highland Avenue, concurred that all of the lots have been subdivided to allow for a community of more modern homes nestled in the slope.
Upper Mountain Avenue lot widths range from 75 to 207 feet, with depths ranging from 189 to 388 feet.
While some commission members struggled with the modern look of the concept house that they believed is in a historic district, interim Township and Historic Preservation Commission Attorney Paul Burr reminded the members that they were only to give their opinion on the subdivision. They don’t have any say for now over what could be proposed in the future for development.
“At such time at the build-out stage if it is determined that the lot is in the historic district, then you will be able to give your opinion. But that application doesn’t exist now,” Burr said.
Historic Preservation Commission members recommended that the historic district line discrepancy be straightened out, and that a buffer of trees be maintained between the two lots to conceal from Upper Mountain Avenue any future development.
The application for subdivision will next head to the Planning Board for a hearing.
The township has allowed for at least four other subdivisions since 2017.
In late 2019, the Zoning Board allowed for a subdivision at 96 High St., where Platinum Interiors had proposed dividing the 0.72-acre lot into three lots, mating the original home and building two new homes on parcels facing Nishuane. The board finally approved a subdivision of two lots.
The Planning Board allowed for a subdivision on Washington Avenue property, allowing for two lots, 50-by-150 feet in size, where 60 feet was required in late 2018. The original house was retained on one lot, and a new single-family home is currently under construction on the neighboring lot.
In November 2018, the Zoning Board approved the subdivision of the First Congregational Church of Montclair property. Two new homes are being constructed on Plymouth Street behind the church by developer Steven Plofker.
In April 2017, the board approved the subdivision of the 2.5-acre Aubrey Lewis Estate, allowing BNE Real Estate to demolish the house and then construct eight single-family houses.
Municipal land-use laws require that development “promote and protect existing residential character and form in established neighborhoods.”