The home at 109 Union St. would be too costly to repair, its owners argue. But the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission has denied an application to demolish it. (KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY VIA ZILLOW)

Let’s understand the factors that created, complicated and guided the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission’s reviews and determinations of the 109 Union St. application — now labeled a “toxic waste zone” by the applicant’s attorney in a letter to Montclair Local — in finding the path forward.

In the first commission hearing, the members reached a unanimous decision — based on fact-finding and guided by our ordinances — to deny the application to demolish the home . What the public should understand is the material facts for the justification of the applicant’s case for demolition did not, in my opinion, change with the submission of the second application. If the applicant had a demolition expert testify, then this would be an example of introducing materially new facts and further assisting in the commission’s findings.

While such demolition expertise is not required at a demolition hearing, I can’t explain the absence of the common-sense need for such testimony, especially when taking a second bite from the due process apple.

What I believe has materially changed is various interested parties are trying to suggest the presence of issues of the commission members’ character and integrity in handling this application — that the path to date has not been genuine, honest and respectful. I do not know if these are based solely on this specific application or a more generalized perception of the commission. These words are now part of this application record and of a harsh, public rebuke. We can’t un-ring that bell, so now we should try to understand the genesis.

I certainly don’t understand. I have taken the Historic Preservation Commission to task many times over the years, both as a member and a resident onlooker. I often made my cases passionately, and harshly at times. However, in the decades since the commission’s inception, I never doubted the character or integrity of this body charged with a thankless mission — one often unsupported by our property owners and our municipal government.

SAVE MONTCLAIR LOCAL: We need your support, and we need it today. The journalism you value from Montclair Local, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, depends on the community's support — we exist because the old model of selling ads alone just can't fund journalism at the level we endeavor to provide. That's why you've seen other local newsrooms cut back staff or shut down entirely. Montclair Local was created because we believe that's unacceptable; the community's at its best when triumphs are celebrated, when power is held to account, when diverse lived experiences are shared — when the community is well-informed.

Montclair is seeking to raise $230,000 from donors, members and grantors between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 to put us on firm footing for 2022, and continue supporting the hard work of our journalists into the new year and beyond. Visit to see how we're doing and make your contribution.

I don’t know these applicants or their named supporters. I do know their current attorney. I have followed their applications as well as well as the impetus in creating the township’s demolition ordinance, the intent in its crafting and the public process it was subjected to. As such, I say this is a flawed ordinance, both in its authorities and execution, and it will require significant remedies by the Township Council.

As to this case, I don’t think a remedy exists with an appeal to the Zoning Board. My reasoning anticipates conflicts hearing an appeal yet to be filed, but also derives from our existing ordinances and New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law.

We don’t need to fix the commission’s character or integrity. We need to make public health and safety paramount in dealing with a highly contaminated site whether the ultimate determination is to rehabilitate or to demolish this structure. Those are my two issues.

Frank Rubacky

Montclair Local’s Opinion section is an open forum for civil discussion in which we invite readers to discuss town matters, articles published in Montclair, or previously published letters. Views expressed and published in this section are solely those of the writers, and do not represent the views of Montclair Local.

Letters to the editor: To submit a letter to the editor, email, or mail “Letters to the Editor,” 309 Orange Road, Montclair, NJ, 07042 (email is preferred). Submissions must include the name, address and phone number of the writer for verification. Only the writer’s name and town of residence will be published. Montclair Local does not publish anonymous opinion pieces.

Letters must be no more than 500 words in length, and must be received by 5 p.m. Monday to be eligible for potential publication in that week’s Thursday print issue. Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for grammar and style. While our goal is to publish most letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to decline publication of a letter for any reason, including but not limited to concerns about unproven or defamatory statements, inappropriate language, topic matter far afield of the particular interests of Montclair residents, or available space.

Town Square: Montclair Local also accepts longer-form opinion essays from residents aiming to generate discussion on topics specific to the community, under our “Town Square” banner. “Town Square” essays should be no more than 750 words in length, and topics should be submitted to at least seven days prior to publication.