By Kelly Nicholaides
for Montclair Local

off-street parking
Residents are seeking variances for larger garages.

Homeowners are looking to tear down their garages and build new ones telling the Montclair Zoning Board of Adjustment that existing space is not enough in their older garages.

Facing the challenges of meeting off-street parking guidelines which are based on number of bedrooms set by the state and driveway-use restrictions set by Montclair have some homeowners seeking relief from the zoning board of adjustment.

The board agreed, approving exceptions at the August and September board meetings.

Inwood Terrace property owner Cheryl Oberdorf wants to convert a portion of her two-car garage into “habitable” space plus room for one car. Her existing two-car garage is substandard, she said, as each bay is not wide enough to fit a vehicle.

Homes with four bedrooms are required to have two and a half off-street parking spaces. However, the space between the home and the curb, which is Oberdorf’s driveway, may not legally be used for parking, but that is the area where she is forced to par since she can’t use her garage

“I bought the house in December 2017 and it was marketed as having a two-car garage. But the 92-inch garage doors open up to 86 inches. My car is 86 inches wide with the mirror, so I can’t get into either bay. Even with a more modern garage door, I still wouldn’t be able to open the car door when I pull in,” Oberdorf said.

She says that taking one space away will increase the modernity of her home.

Her architect Robert Algarin said the new space would be a one and a half car garage attached to the house.

“We’re taking a desk space width away and ending up with a normal one car garage and five foot by 21 foot space left for utilities to stock a washer and dryer or a full bath. The benefit is that the garage becomes part of the house and you don’t have to get out into the elements,” said Algarin. “It’s clean, safe, dry and you’re not getting out with your groceries and going into the ice and snow. The goal is to age in place.”

Board member Joseph Fleischer reflected on the issue of two and a half parking spaces required for Oberdorf’s property. He said he would rather allow an exception than set a precedent. “I don’t want to set a precedent of allowing a second car to park in the driveway. It’s best to reduce the parking requirement in this case,” Fleischer said.

The board allowed the reduction of Oberdorf’s parking requirement by one space, allowing her to convert her two-car garage into a one and a half car garage. She will no longer park in the driveway.

Board member Thomas Reynolds said that Oberdorf’s property layout and location makes it difficult to add a compliant space for two cars. “If we expand the garage, it creates a side yard setback issue. With parking, we look at lots unique situations,” Reynolds said.

Stephen Street resident Mary Clark’s application for an exception was approved in August. She plans to demolish her existing garage and rebuild, adding 10 feet, from 20 by 20 foot to a 20 by 30 foot footprint. Zoning rules dictate a six-foot rear and side setbacks, based on height and setback of the garage as well as other parking areas and driveways on the property. The existing garage has a six-foot rear yard setback and one-foot side yard setback. The proposed garage will maintain a six-foot rear yard setback and have a four-foot side yard setback due to location of existing driveway.

In April 2017, when the Montclair Zoning Board of Adjustment approved an application to build a single-family home on the 50-by-207-foot lot at 62 Wildwood Ave. Two variances were requested — for 50-foot frontage compared to the required 70 feet, and for off-street parking and garage to be placed in front of the home.

The next zoning board meeting is on Oct. 17.