Washington Avenue
A new application has been filed and will be heard tonight to subdivide this property on Washington Avenue.
COURTESY PLANNING BOARD

By Jaimie Julia Winters
winters@montclairlocal.news

A proposal to split a lot on Washington Avenue in order to build a second home on the property is back at the planning board seeking approval.

The planning board will hear the new application tonight, July 9.

Property owner Sam Debnam, 96, wants to sell half of his 150-by-100 foot lot to developer Mitchell MacGregor who plans to build a single-family house on the site at 448 Washington Ave. Debnam contends a reverse mortgage on his home has run out and the only way to keep up with the taxes and stay in his home is to sell off part of his property.

The house would be retained and upgraded.

The original application, which called for the lots to be split by 45 feet and 55 feet, was denied by the planning board in February after months of testimony and circulation of a petition by Debnam’s son asking the board to grant its approval. The application was denied on Feb. 26 with Keith Brodock, Stephen Rooney, Timothy Barr and John Wynn voting in favor and Anthony Ianuale, Carmel Loughman, Daniel Gilmer and Carole Willis voting no. Due to the tie vote, the application was denied.

An 11- apartment redevelopment is proposed for 256 Park St.
COURTESY MPB

The new application calls for the fronts of both lots to be 50 feet in width and a new garage to be built behind the older home with the new home retaining the original garage. A sun room would be removed from the existing home and therefore eliminate the need for a side-yard and building width variance. The houses would share the existing driveway.

Sixty-foot vs. 50-foot frontage
The current land use regulations call for a 60-foot frontage. Arguments made earlier in the year, reflected the town planner’s recommendations that area lot-size requirements be reduced to 50-foot frontages.

The planning board voted no to the lot-size change after the hearing and denial of the Washington Street application.

“The town planner did not review the potential for over-development-related effects here for the board to consider just how many new double lots might suddenly be created, or how many additional multi-family builds could result from her proposed new zoning modifications. Instead, it was presented to us as just logical, common sense adjustments to try and average out each area’s zoning for ease of enforcement,” Planning Board Member Martin Schwartz said about the proposed policy change.

Once the planner saw that members had difficulty with potential development ramifications, Planner Janice Tulley advised the board she would remove those zoning lot size changes from modified recommendations, said Schwartz.

In Talley’s presentation to council on June 12 on zoning and land use regulation changes, lot size requirements for new one and two-family construction was at least 60 feet in width with a total lot size of at least 6,000 square feet.

“The effects of reducing front yard width and side yard zoning set-backs for many properties throughout the township does appear to have potential to create additional sub-divisions, more old-house knock-downs and more single-family development. And this could be seen in contradiction to some provisions of the master plan like maintaining more open space, preserving neighborhood character, or impacting quality of life and related environmental goals,” Schwartz said.

Also on the agenda
An 11-apartment development at 256 Park St. will be heard again tonight. The last hearing, which went past midnight, resulted in postponement of the application.

A traffic study concluded the development would not increase existing traffic due to trips generated by tenants and the first-floor retail business. But there was some concern over backup traffic patterns when entering the driveway and with motorists’ view of pedestrians when pulling out of the driveway.

Residents also raised concerns over the proposed 27 off-street parking spaces, where the requirement is 33, and no on-site loading spaces.

Neighbors, concerned with density, aesthetics and increased traffic problems arising from the 11 apartment and retail development, are expected to attend tonight’s meeting with a petition against it.