DENVILLE, NJ-- Tensions ran high at a recent zoning board meeting after an issue was brought to the table about construction to a home in the Cedar Lake community.
The house in question, at 30 Cedar Lake East, is in the process of getting renovated but lawyers representing other homeowners in the area claim that building permits were unjustly given to the owner of the property.
Prior to the start of renovation, the lot housed a small boathouse that the owner, Thomas “T.J.” Carlyon, used as a cabana-getaway not too far from his full-time residence. Carlyon, unaware of any issues after he received permits to begin construction, started to turn the small boathouse into a two-story residence.
Lawyers, Mr. Sweeney and Mr. Thomas, representing two homeowners in the same community, stated that converting a boathouse to a residence would require all new permits; a process that was allegedly bypassed by the zoning official.
“Plans call for a bedroom, a stove, a bathroom, a shower, a water closet,” Thomas said. “If it looks like a residence and smells like a residence, it probably is a residence.”
While the zoning official, Salvatore Poli, claims he was aware of the intention to convert the structure into a house, he says that the owner of the property was simply going upwards and it is customary in Denville that such a renovation doesn’t require any additional permits or variances.
Thomas then said that the plot size is far too small, by law, to have a house on it. Additionally, he argued, even though it’s not unusual to allow a property owner to expand upwards, turning it into a house would change it from a nonconforming use property into a residence.
Such a change would require a whole new set of permits, variances, and inspections before construction could begin. According to Thomas, this did not occur, meaning any permits to renovate the boathouse should not have been issued.
In addition to claiming that permits were not issued correctly, Thomas and Sweeney claim that this construction has decreased property values in the area because it obstructs others’ view of the lake.
Poli claims that he saw nothing wrong in allowing the current structure to be expanding upwards but received a letter from Carlyon in late June saying that he would take off the second floor and restore it back to its original use. Poli, accepting this as a withdrawal of the plans, thought the issue had been resolved.
Carlyon was called to speak and said he was not withdrawing the plans; an action that would require him to resubmit all paperwork and reapply for permits. Instead, Carlyon decided that he would apply for an amendment to the original plans, which included the removal of the second floor and restoration of the original boathouse, taking out any amenities that would label it a residence.
As the meeting hit its one hour, then two hours, and even three hour mark, residents began to voice their disagreement with the actions of the witnesses and lawyers. Residents could be heard shouting out their opinions about all parties involved throughout the duration of the meeting.
As the meeting closed without a final resolution, the zoning board decided that they did not have enough information to vote on whether construction could continue or if it would have to be halted and Carlyon reapply for all his permits.
The next hearing on the matter was scheduled for the September 16 zoning board meeting. Just as the meeting was closing, James Rodimer, a member of the board, asking if Carlyon would take down the second floor in the time being as a show of good faith. Members in the audience applauded as the meeting came to a close after more than three hours of testimony and questioning.