Instead a six-family, the owner now wants to build a four-family and single unit home on the property at 137 Walnut St.

By Kelly Nicholaides
for Montclair Local

Plans to demolish an automobile detailing shop at 137 Walnut St. and replace it with one multifamily building of six two-bedroom housing units have been scaled back to four units and a single family home. The layout will now include two buildings instead of one, and the automobile detailing shop owner, whose business will be torn down if the zoning board of adjustment approves the project on March 6, is pondering his future.

Owned by Khadija and Victor Barkley of Silver Spring, Md., the .52 acre, 22,830 square feet property sits in a two-family residential zone. It is currently occupied by a two-family home and boarder unit, which will remain on site at the front of the property, and a commercial building in the rear. Site plans indicate that the Personal Touch Automotive Detailing shop on site will be razed to make way for housing.

Previously, the property owners wanted to build a six-unit multifamily dwelling. The plans have been amended, for construction of two new residential structures — a single family home and a four-unit multifamily building containing two bedrooms per unit.

“I’ve been here since 1997. I built this business when I became a single dad. Now I run it with my son,” said Eric Clemonts, owner of Personal Touch Automotive Detailing. “We have a lot of loyal customers who come from all over. I take pride in my work, whether my clients want to go all out or spend the least amount, all for a fair price. I’m trying to find someplace else in the area to relocate if this gets approved, but I may move it out of state if they put me out. One door closes, another opens.”

The 48-year-old business owner and former Orange resident said he got married in April 2018 and bought a home 45 minutes away in Pennsylvania. He has been commuting to work in Montclair ever since, providing detailing services on high end vehicles like Porsches and Ferraris to mid-range models like Subaru and Jeep. Services can cost anywhere from $60 to $1,000 in wax jobs alone. Clemonts does not have a web site, but his Yelp, unofficial Facebook, Angie’s List, and Google reviews are glowing with four and five stars.

If the property is transformed, the layout will be as follows: The multifamily building layout will include one unit on the first floor, and a four-car garage, two housing units on the second floor; and one on the third floor. The proposed single-family dwelling will contain two bedrooms and an attached two-car garage.

Multiple zoning exceptions are needed. The applicant is seeking variances as follows: existing nonconforming three-family dwelling and the additional units; permission for more than one principal building; three-story heights where two and a half are allowed; minimum side yard setback of 10 feet where six feet for both the proposed four-family dwelling and the proposed single family dwelling are planned; minimum rear yard setback of 25 percent of the lot’s depth;  a 15.3 foot rear yard setback, where 64.5 feet is required for the four-unit multifamily building; 26.8 percent, where the permitted maximum is 25 percent for the maximum permitted building coverage existing and proposed; and six feet fencing height where maximum permitted is four and a half feet in front of the extreme rear corners of the principal building.

The applicants’ attorney is Alan Trembulak; and architect is John Guadagnoli.