By TINA PAPPAS
for Montclair Local
The township Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a use variance Wednesday night to convert a mixed-use residential building and medical office on Plymouth Street into a two-family dwelling.
The application was submitted by Henry Liedtka, owner of Sustainable Sanctuary Homes, who purchased the property, located in the R1 single family zone, in order to renovate it. His attorney, Alan Trembulak, cited points about generating more rateables for the township and improving property values in the application.
According to Trembulak the building, which was built in 1917, contains a large, residential structure presumably originally built as a single family house. However the structure was converted in 1950 to a mixed use with a medical office on the first floor, and residential use on the second floor.
“It continued to be used as such since 1950 and continually since until my client purchased the property a few months ago,” said Trembulak, adding that before the property was acquired it had a medical office on the first floor and two residential apartments on the second floor.
Trembulak further added that the intent for the property was to eliminate the medical use, which is not conforming in the R1 zone.
“It creates parking and traffic and concerns for a residential zone, and converts the building to a two-family dwelling, which we believe is a more appropriate use than this location for a variety of reasons,” Trembulak added. “Part of what we’re dong is pushing to eliminate the second entrance office so that this house as converted will appear to be a single family residence, although it will be used as a two-family dwelling.”
When asked about the intentions of the two units by the board, Liedtke confirmed that the building would consist of two unit condominiums that would be owned and not rented. Board members made a point that non-conformity would still be a factor for a two-family dwelling that’s located in a single-family R-1 zone. Background information on the property, conducted by Deputy Planning Directo Graham Petto, was not found regarding how the property wound up in the single-family zone. However, board members agreed to the two-family use, approving the application 6-0.
Some minor modifications for the building’s exterior were also detailed by Trembulak, among them being the elimination of a second entrance office so that the building will appear to be a single-family residence, although it will be used as a two-family residence. Paul Sionas, architect for the site, showed an array of blueprints, which depicting the renovation details and emphasized that the house would continue to look as it presently does, with slight aesthetic adjustments to the exterior.
Liedtka told board members that the nature of his business was to renovate homes in order to produce “attractve, comfortable and energy efficient housing in the Montclair market.” He added that his projects have been well received in the past by those who live in the vicinity.
“Last year, we completed a bigger project, which was a three-lot subdivision on Elm Street,” he noted. “Prior to the acquisition and subsequent renovation, it was an unkept property.”
Liedtka also said that the families that bought homes were happy and that Montclair received an additional amount of property tax revenue resulting from that development.
“I would think that if you’re familiar with the South End at all, you could tell that the surrounding area benefited,” he added. “Our firm strives to create a win-win for everybody involved. Most importantly, we engage the neighbors early on many phases of the project. In October of last year, we invited everyone at an open house at 41 Plymouth Street, and we reviewed the plans of those who attended. We received positive feedback proposing this and in other discussions with those neighbors. What I heard from them regarding their main desires is to keep the single family look and feel in the neighborhood.”