By Jaimie Julia Winters
While residents have been lambasting town officials over the removal of trees at the corner of Lloyd and Undercliff roads, most have no idea what is actually in the works at the hillside properties that abut Eagle Rock Reservation and sold to one developer recently.
An application for “Lloyd Estate,” a massive compound proposed for two properties on Undercliff and Lloyd roads, was filed with the planning department on Tuesday. Two homes will be razed to make way for an estate that will include, along with typical living quarters such as a family room and a kitchen: a basketball court, a spa, a gym, a bowling alley, a movie theater, indoor and outdoor pools, a staff wing, a billiards room, a library, a computer lab, a nine-car motor court, two garages, seven guest rooms, three kids’ rooms, a homework room, a master suite with a kitchen and his-and-her balconies, all accessible by two elevators.
The properties at 14 Undercliff and 172 Lloyd roads along Eagle Rock Reservation were purchased by 14 Undercliff LLC in January and May respectively and will equate to 28 acres in total. The properties were purchased for a combined price of $7,463,400, with taxes at a combined $119,000. The LLC was formed in July 2017 by Dennis Jenkins a managing member of the South Orange based Mecca Property Development, according to records filed with the state Division of Revenue and Finance.
The newly filed application did not include the square footage of the proposed home.
To date, two variances are being sought for height of 38.5 feet where 35 is allowed and for a rear set back of 25 feet where 141 is required, said Graham Petto, assistant township planner. The application is being handled by attorney Alan Trembulak.
Permits for tree clearing on the properties were granted in May, with the trees being taken down in July, prior to the developer filing the site plan application with the planning department. The permit was filed in October 2017 by Montclair Tree Experts. Town officials contend only three trees have been removed.
The town’s tree ordinance does not regulate how many trees can be taken down on private property, only that a permit be obtained and the trees be replaced one for one, or the town be paid $250 for each tree taken down. The Montclair Environmental Commission does not see the applications for tree clearing permits, but at times reviews site applications, said MEC planning board liaison Keith Broderick. He said the tree arborist conducts a spotcheck of the number of razed trees after the contractor completes the job to ascertain the number that needs to be replaced.
After residents questioned what they thought was new tree clearing and trees marked with pink ribbons for further clearing and called town hall, a township code enforcement officer was dispatched to the properties.
“The construction project manager (Petry Engineering, LLC) said that no additional trees are currently scheduled for removal and the marked out trees are for site survey purposes. If additional trees need to be removed, they will apply for the appropriate permits,” said communications manager Katya Wowk.
An engineer, hired by the township under its steep slope ordinance, has compiled a report for the hillside properties requiring that a plan be submitted for retention of the hill, stormwater runoff, retaining walls and a permeable soil test.
The applicant will also need approval for land disturbance by the Hudson, Essex, Passaic Soil Conservation District.
The application will first go to the Historic Preservation Commission for comment as the two homes set for razing are located in the Estate Historic district, said Wowk. Although the Estate Historic district is a potential historic district, any development in potential or designated districts must be reviewed by the HPC, said HPC Chair Kathleen Bennett. The homes, at 14 Undercliff built in 1865 and 172 Lloyd built in 1907, were surveyed for Preservation Montclair in 1982, but were never registered on the historical register.
The application will then head to the zoning board of adjustment for review, probably in December, said Wowk.
“If it’s approved, knocking down these two classic older homes will be the biggest policy failure to date allowed by our town planner and planning office,” said planning board member Martin Schwartz. “A major selling point for Montclair remains its character and world-class classic architecture. We use to have a 75 year, no knock down law that protected older homes from just this kind of McMansion building speculation. If we allow this kind of old house knock-down and over the top building effort instead of mandating only reasonable and balanced growth, we will just lose what we have here over time.”