Township officials draft new zoning ordinance
By LINDA MOSS
Montclair's zoning ordinance is undergoing an overhaul to update it, eliminating its confusing sections and inconsistencies. A draft of the new ordinance is under review by members of two township bodies, the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Township Planner Janice Talley talked about the draft zoning ordinance at the planning board's meeting on Monday night. A subcommittee made up of members of the planning and zoning boards reviewed the ordinance on Sept. 7 and made several recommendations on its structure, according to Talley, and they are scheduled to meet again to discuss it Oct. 10.
In part the zoning ordinance is being rewritten to eliminate confusion with it in the wake of the municipality's new master plan, and to "create zone-districts names that also reference the maximum building height [permitted in that zone]," presumably a "more logical" way to name them, Talley said in a Sept. 18 memo to the planning board.
There are new monikers for residential as well as commercial/mixed-use districts.
According to the memo, the existing township zoning ordinance hasn't been revised since the early 1970s. As a result, the ordinance is "difficult to navigate, has redundant and conflicting language" and creates questions and the need for interpretation, Talley wrote.
“So we eliminated that," Talley told the board at its meeting. "We cleaned it up.”
According to the memo, the existing township zoning ordinance hasn't been revised since the early 1970s.
"The revised zoning ordinance reorganizes the regulations to improve clarity to create a user-friendly code that does not change the underlying standards that govern development," she wrote.
"The existing zoning ordinance is difficult to navigate because many zoning district reference uses and standards in other zoning districts, creating layers," Talley wrote. "The new zoning ordinance does not reference standards in other zoning districts, but includes uses tables to list allowed uses and details development standards within each zone district."
The draft ordinance also contemplates permitting some uses that are currently not allowed. That includes, for example shared housing and cemeteries in residential districts; as well as brewpubs, health and fitness facilities, and movie and recording studios in commercial zones.
Under the proposed ordinance, “residential districts have been separated into sub districts that reflect existing lot frontage,” Talley said in her memo.
For example, at the meeting she explained that what is now a one-family zone is broken into four sub zones, based on 60-foot, 70-foot, 80-foot and 90-foot property frontages.
“So the end result is this is going to reflect what’s actually there,” Board Chair John Wynn said.
In the revising zoning ordinance, nonresidential districts have been separated into sub districts that reflect the maximum height in each zone, Talley wrote in her memo.
For example, at the meeting Talley said that what is now designated as a C-1 central business zone is divided into two sub zones: CBD-4C, which stands for central business zone with four stories and CBD-4E, or the edge of the central business zone with four stories. And the existing NC, or neighborhood commercial zone, becomes NCD-3, or neighborhood commercial zone with three stores and NCD-5, or neighborhood commercial zone with five stories.
On Monday the board also signed off on an amendment to the town code that would require a zoning permit to be issued when a new tenant comes to a business location. In the case at hand, a pawn shop -- which are not permitted in town -- opened up. It apparently argued in its defense that it was never given a ticket telling it was in violation of the local ordinance.
“If we’re not aware that a pawn shop exists, how can we enforce the ordinance?” Talley said, offering the logic behind requiring a zoning permit be issued when a new tenant arrives at a site.
“Ignorance of the law is never a defense,” Wynn said.
Nonetheless, Talley wanted the board's approval to ask the council to amend the code and require the zoning permits. The board agreed.