Planning Board deadlocked on Washington Avenue subdivision vote
by TINA PAPPAS
for Montclair Local
A developer’s plan to subdivide a single-family lot with the hopes of adding another home has been turned down by the Montclair Planning Board.
Mitchell MacGregor, owner of Mitchell MacGregor Contracting of Montclair, submitted an application to subdivide the property at 448 Washington Ave., which he plans to purchase in order to build another home on the lot. The lot is located near the intersection of Washington Avenue and Orange Road and is zoned R1 single family. The property is 100 by 145 feet and currently has a single family home and a detached garage that would remain.
The application failed to pass with a 4-to-4 vote at the Feb. 26 planning board meeting.
A hearing prior to the vote drew out South End residents concerned with density and the impact on neighboring property values, as a result of the new construction.
MacGregor’s attorney, Alan Trembulak, presented what he referred to as a “minor subdivision.”
“My client is under contract to purchase the property and is proposing to subdivide the property into two lots and a build single family home on the subdivided parcel,” said Tremulak.
According to Tremulak, under the current zoning ordinance, the property has the minimum width requirement of 60 feet. However, based upon the updated zoning ordinance, he believes the board has recommended that the lot width in this neighborhood change from 60 feet to 50 feet.
“It’s one of the reasons we’re here,” he explained. “I assume that’s because the board was under review that the prevailing lot width in this neighborhood is more in line with 50 feet than it is with 60 feet.”
Tremulak said the original application proposed subdividing the property down the middle making two 50-foot wide lots. Municipal Planner Janice Talley emphasized that another variance would be required with original home then having inadequate side yard setback of approximately 9 feet. And another variance would be needed to address the width of the houses exceeding the maximum width amount allowed under the zoning law.
“In light of that and based upon the comments of board’s review memo, we revised the plan to shift the lot line, creating a 55-foot lot for the existing house and eliminating the other variances for side yards and lot width of the house,” Tremulak added. “Consequently, the other lot to be subdivided would be done at 45 feet and that’s the plan that’s currently before you.”
Tremulak said that either plan, which entailed a 50-by-50 feet or 55-by-45 feet subdivision would be proposed to the board. The board affirmed that the 50-foot subdivision is the appropriate width requirement in the neighborhood, but would still require a variance request.
“We are proposing two lots with frontage of 100 feet, which is consistent with requirement that the board has recommended to the council,” he assured. “As noted, we submitted a subdivision plan and also submitted a site plan as well, along with architectural design plans, which shows the house my client plans to construct on the subdividing lot, if this application is approved by the board.”
During his testimony, MacGregor told the board he would adhere to the specifications outlined within an approval. He submitted photos he had taken to provide to the board specifications explaining his plans with the property.
“My intention is that I’ll design a house that I think will fit in that neighborhood,” MacGregor said. “We paid careful attention to the design of it, so it will be conducive to the area on the width, length and the height. We plan to construct the house with respect to the architectural plans that were submitted. We’re going to fix it up, landscape it and make it very nice.” He also plans to maintain the existing garage and add a new garage for the additional house.
He also said that the existing curb cut and driveway would be eliminated. A recommendation to replace the sidewalks, which are in disrepair, was also stipulated in the application.
Also requested were relocating the utility lines to the rear of the property. Tree removal was also discussed.
Linda Robinson, who lives adjacent to the property, shared her concerns regarding what she felt was overbuilding in town.
“One of the best things of our town is the amount of space in the beauty of our properties and our neighborhoods,” she explained. “I invite anyone to my home on a beautiful sunny day, and I will show you what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m afraid this is moving us towards, especially in the South End, where we’ve had a lot of development that was not necessarily wanted by the residents. This is another hit to our way of life down there. We love our neighbors, but we don’t want to live with them.”
Several other residents from the South End also felt that there would be a loss in sunlight coming into their adjacent homes as a result of the new building.
Board members appeared divided in their support of the site plans during their statements. John Wynn, planning board chair, said that subdivisions were not a unique situation on Washington Avenue, and cited other properties that have been subdivided in the area, along with other areas in town.
He also said he understood concerns for space and sunlight issues but said that the intent by the board is to strike a balance in approving applications.
“I think it’s a fair statement to say that 50 to 60 feet on this street in this neighborhood is pretty much the norm,” he said.”I think with the right house on the lot that you can have virtually no impact. It would coexist with sufficient room so the present owners are satisfied with the space. It would create the same type of environment with this subdivision.”
Planning board member Carole Willis stated she had some concerns for the property and with the board’s recommendation.
“I am concerned that the board has recommended the 50-feet standard,” she said. “It was not done with the intent that it should provoke a lot of subdividing going on with properties that are already there.”