CRANFORD – Wednesday’s Planning Board Meeting agenda focused on the issues of driveways and the changes to the ordinance that have resulted in unintended consequences to homeowners.

In 2014, two changes to the driveway ordinance were made. One change was the width requirement and the other was to have a three-foot setback from the side yard property to the edge of the driveway.

A problem with the three-foot setback is that smaller properties in town can’t meet that requirement because the driveways come in at the property line. It has resulted in a lot of applications being denied in the zoning office for a simple repaving of a driveway. Once denied, a resident then has to go to the zoning board for a variance.

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Zoning Officer Ron Johnson compared Cranford’s three-foot setback to other communities. Both Roselle and Westfield don’t have a standard for a driveway setback, while Plainfield has a two-foot standard.

The board proposed that the three-foot buffer only apply to new construction homes. The current constructed homes that are nonconforming to the standard will be grandfathered if they choose to repave their driveways in the current existing dimensions. However, nonconforming homes will not be allowed to go further into the three-foot setback required area if they choose to extend the driveway. If a nonconforming home chooses to extend the driveway in the other direction, it will be allowed.

In regards to driveway width, it was originally thought that driveways had to be a minimum of 10-feet wide. However, Johnson cleared up the confusion and said there is no minimum, but rather a maximum. The rule states that a driveway’s width may not exceed 10 feet, or a third of the lot, which ever is greater, but in no case should a driveway’s width exceed 26 feet. For example, a lot that is 60-feet wide can have a driveway with a width of 20 feet, but a lot with a width of 100 feet must cap its driveway width at 26 feet.

A third discussion was brought up about driveways, this one having to do with adequate safeguards such as Belgium block.

Johnson read the rule stated, “Driveways and parking areas for one and two-family residences shall be paved from the driveway apron to the front of the building setback line with adequate safeguards for the edge of the driveway.”

Johnson mentioned that the rule doesn’t state what adequate safeguards are. He also mentioned that he feels adequate safeguards may be needed in the case of a gravel driveway, but not necessarily for a paved driveway. Some problems with adding safeguards such as Belgium block to paved driveways include a tripping hazard, making a narrow driveway even more narrow, and it can also prevent storm runoff from properly draining. Ultimately, the decision was made to recommend that residential properties would not be required to abide.  

In conclusion, the resolution reached on Wednesday has to be voted on by the Township Committee. The Planning Board will try to get it though the preliminary red tape before the Township Committee goes into summer schedule. There is a possibility if all does not go as planned, that it will not be finalized until September.