By KELLY NICHOLAIDES
for Montclair Local
Montclair dentist Paul Rotunda wants zoning board approval to expand his dental practice and residence, a Queen Anne Revival structure at 83 Park St. at the corner of Walnut.
The property is in the Office Garden Apartment and Office Building Zone and “potential historic resources district.” As such, it is under Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) scrutiny. The HPC gave 15 recommendations to the board regarding the application.
The property houses a dental office on the first floor of the structure and living quarters on the second and third floors with an attached two-car garage. There is parking for 12 vehicles, including two in the attached garage, is provided in the rear yard with driveway access from Walnut Street. A parking variance was granted in 1988 to use the 1,058 square foot basement for general office space to be rented for non-medical professional office use.
The applicant wants to build a three story addition in the location of the present one-story garage. The addition amounts to 1,014 square feet, including 962 square feet of office space. It will include four parking spaces at the garage level, 962 square feet of additional space for the dental office use on the first floor, a new bedroom, bathroom and closet for the dwelling unit on the second floor and additional storage space for the dwelling unit on the third floor.
Practicing dentistry and living on site for around 25 years, Rotunda said he is over 60 with a wife and two young sons, and the extra living and office space is needed. The second and third floors are connected by a steep staircase and the living space needs improvement.
“Coincidentally one of our children fell onto a landing and almost broke his nose. Safety is one of the driving forces [for this application]. We want the bedrooms on the same level so that we don’t have to go upstairs,” Rotunda said, adding that the third-floor substandard bedroom space is currently being used as an exercise room.
Attorney Alan Trembulak said the twofold reason for expansion is to provide more space to operate the dental practice more efficiency, not for business volume increases. The second reason is that Rotunda’s family has grown.
Variances were needed for 43.86-feet height, which is over the 35-feet maximum, side yard setback of 7.83 feet as opposed to 20 feet minimum required, one parking space in the front yard; a parking area that is three feet from building; and 15 parking spaces (includes 12 existing) as opposed to 18 required.
Architect Mike Sweebe said the building is in an area of mixed uses combining professional and home space. “Mr. Rotunda’s dental office and residence is exemplary as a classic Montclair building in form, style and materials,” said Sweebe, adding that living spaces are becoming “increasingly restrictive” in Montclair due to older housing stock.
“The only bedroom is on the second floor for a family of four. The second floor also includes a dining room, living, kitchen and bath. The third-floor bedroom is substandard and currently used as exercise space,” he said. “We’re adding a master suite with full bathroom, closets and a pantry for the existing kitchen on the second floor. The spatial relief is instead of four people in one bedroom, the parents get their own suite and two stay in the existing bedroom. The first floor adds six new exam rooms to improve operational efficiency. The attic portion gets much needed storage. The roof will have a gable dormer with window.”
HPC representative John Reimnitz said one of the HPC’s recommendations in March included denial on the height variance. He said the addition’s height will not match the slope of the roof on the existing structure, despite the applicant saying it would. “Physically that can’t be because of the narrower addition,” Reimnitz said. He also questioned if the third-floor space would be used for extra living space and if it would be insulated and heated. Rotunda replied that it would not and that he wouldn’t store anything of value up there as the space is not temperature controlled.
Sweebe said that the conflicting point between the HPC and his client is over the style. “The Queen Anne Revival style is known for a very busy exterior that we’re not interested in. The current siding is aluminum and the addition will be fibered cement or painted wood. Queen Annes are known for multiple size windows,” he added, noting that the HPC took issue with the larger windows even though they would benefit the interior with more natural light.
Board member John Caulfield said he was confused as to how the plans would fit in to the future of the property over the next three decades. Sweebe said use of the building would continue as professional office and dwelling and would be more marketable with the improvements to accommodate a family and business.
Regardless, Board member Jay Church noted that the plans increase the density on the lot.
Two residents who are Rotunda’s neighbors testified that they were in favor of the application.
The zoning board will continue hearing testimony on the application on July 17.