PLAINFIELD, NJ - Plainfield's Historic Preservation Commission heard new cases at its Tuesday meeting. The County of Union was seeking a Certificate of Appropriateness for work on the Cedar Brook Park Bridge, and another applicant was seeking a certificate to construct a 4,000-square-foot single-family home on Belvidere Avenue where the previous home had been destroyed in a fire.
Project Manager Jessica Hauber of Remington Vernick Engineers was there on behalf of the county, to review plans to replace a structurally compromised area of the Cedar Brook Park Bridge at Stelle Avenue.
The existing bridge is a single rail bridge, and the county is proposing to replace it with an arch system with a closed parapet, and with a design that would match the Pemberton Avenue Bridge. Hauber said that project, which was approved in 2015, is currently under construction but she was unaware of the estimated completion date.
Hauber noted the only difference between the two bridges is that the parapet would have to be extended out on either side of the wing wall on the Cedar Brook Park one in order to accommodate the NJDEP since it is now an open rail and the hydraulics are different. A wing wall extends into the water to hold back soil, acting like a retaining wall.
The stream bed would not be touched, but the stone walls would be rehabbed. A large oak tree on the embankment would need to be removed, but with every one tree taken down, two trees would have to be planted by the county.
The board approved a resolution for a Certificate of Appropriateness, with the condition that if any other governmental agencies make changes, the applicant would have to return to the HPC for further review.
Another applicant, Pradip Paul, purchased the lot at 710-16 Belvidere Avenue in the Netherwood Heights Historic District for $100,000. The residence that previously sat on the land had burned in a fire; according to minutes from the HPC's March 25, 2015 meeting, the remains were unable to be secured, and what was left of the house had been demolished and removed from the property.
At the 2015 meeting, Chairman William Michelson said the site was part of a large property that had been subdivided in the 1970s – six lots were subdivided and six split-levels were built. He said it was a classic case for reclaiming properties where something inappropriate was done. He had added, “because of upzoning in the 2002 Land Use Ordinance, it is not even certain if anything can be built on this lot.”
But this week, Paul, along with his architect, came before the board seeking a Certificate of Appropriateness for the design of a new house, a 4,000-square-foot single-family, four-bedroom Tudor style home with gable roof that would include a 22' x 22' detached garage, a circular driveway, and a deck and swimming pool. The house would be a maximum of 35 feet tall.
When asked, Paul said he did not intend to live in the house; he plans to resell the property.
Concerns from the board included the grade of the land for the deck and pool, and a circular driveway that would require two street opening permits. Front yard parking is permitted only if it's on a driveway in front of a garage, so the applicant would need a variance.
Chairman Michelson said, "This is only the second example I know of where this commission has to address entirely new construction on lots in the historic district."
Resident Tom Clark said there is a 200-foot well from the original house. "Nobody ever did anything about it. They just bulldozed the old house down. And it could be a real safety hazard, this 200-foot hole." The architect was unaware of the well.
Linda Goetz, who lives on Woodland Ave, voiced her concerns about runoff water due to the grading of the land. She asked if a perc test would be conducted to determine the water absorption rate of the soil. She added that a precedent would be set if a pool and deck are built closer to the homes on Woodland Avenue.
Jeff Truitt said part of his driveway is a dominant easement, and he said could provide documentation.
Louise Colodne, who lives across the street from the property, said, "When I first moved there in 1979 all those houses did not exist across the street from me. And they got built one by one against the residents who resided on that street. Why? Because those builders were hungry for the money, and we didn't have what we have today, historic preservation."
She added, "There was Otis' lot, there was another lot, and there was another lot. And one by one, they all went up, and they matched nothing that was on that street. Absolutely nothing. I fought it and fought it, but again, we didn't have what we have today. So I am against this design. I would like to see, personally, a nice little craftsman or a center hall colonial that fits properly on the lot. Done well, done nice, and appropriate for the neighborhood."
Members of the commission asked the applicant to do a study of the types of houses that are on the block. They encouraged him to be creative and to put alternative plans together, and to consider details that make a house interesting. A member also said taxes on a 4,000-square-foot could be up to $30,000, so size could be reconsidered.
The recommendation by the commission was to carry the case to the next month.
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