NUTLEY, NJ - The Nutley Historic Preservation Committee met with Board of Commissioners to discuss potential changes to the Historic Preservation Ordinance Tuesday evening, May 16 in the open public meeting.
Historic Preservation Chairman John Simko and members John Demmer, Sal Corvino, Jeanne Van Steen and Dorothy (Dot) Greengrove presented the changes to the historic ordinance deeming how public or commercial properties can be labeled a historic landmark.
Present were Mayor and Public Works Commissioner Joseph P. Scarpelli and Commissioners Alphonse Petracco, Mauro G. Tucci and Steven L. Rogers and via phone Revenue and Finance Commissioner Thomas J. Evans.
Township Attorney Alan Genitempo explained the ordinance changes were reviewed with Planning Board Attorney Barry Kozyra and Zoning Board Attorney Diana McGovern. “We made changes that provided some notice requirements regarding decisions that might be made regarding the properties the planning board has to make the final determination after public hearing to determination if an objection is stated,” he said. Genitempo added the ordinance has not been amended in a long time.
The Board of Commissioners voiced concerns about forcing the ordinance on residents. Tucci said it was not clear if it was voluntary or mandatory the way the potential ordinance reads now. “I see it as a giving up of a property owner’s rights,” said Rogers. “When the first version was put forward with the intent that the participation would be voluntary, I was surprised that I didn’t see language in the ordinance referred to that,” said Evans.
“I know there were major concerns strong arming people or locking them into something they didn’t want to do. Based on the Bank of Nutley scenario I saw where we were lacking on some of the mechanics on how this goes through,” said John Demmer of the Historic Preservation Committee.
Demmer suggested the historic preservation aspect could be put in the master plan if it would benefit the town. “Through trial and error we found out that we were lacking key features in the first set. We never wanted this to be something that was enforced upon someone. We wanted people to be part of, to recommend or come to the committee and say ‘how do I get put on this list of properties’,” he said.
“The owner of the property can object during the public hearing. Will the planning board override an owner’s desire not to deem it a historic landmark,” asked Genitempo.
“There aren’t so many scenarios, even 20 years from now that we would go so aggressively after a property, that we would take someone’s rights away from them,” said Demmer. “Within next 20 years it would be voluntary but I could foresee in the future a commercial building or a home that is so important that an owner may not be absolutely willing. Isn’t an ordinance something that does require someone to do something?” asked Simko.
“Someone is going to make a decision over the property owner I have a problem with that,” said Rogers. “The whole point of the historic ordinance, your intent to approve the ordinance, is to protect properties that have historic value to this town and the history of this town,” said Corvino.
“Owners are thrilled to be a part of it,” said Simko. “Use the right colors, use the right materials do it tastefully and it always seems to works out,” said Corvino.
Mayor Scarpelli pointed out that a home owner has two opportunities to object, one on the Historic Preservation Committee level and then on the planning board level.
“There is no way that we would feel that we would force something down someone’s throat, we want to have a method in which we give them guidance as to how to renovate a property that might be determined historic. We have to go to a lot of historic research and proofs to bring a building to the planning board. It’s the planning board that makes the final decision we don’t, we present the case. The home owner makes their argument,” said Corvino.
Once a home is put on the historic preservation list it stay on it no matter who owns it explained Corvino. “There should be notification on the deed and certificate of occupancy that the house is historic,” said Genitempo.
“I live in a house that is on the National Register (of Historic Place) and I am proud to live in a house that is on the National Register. We do not do anything to disturb the house. People call up and want to put aluminum siding or plastic on the house and I slam the phone down on them. I’m not the only one; some of the others on the Enclosure do the same thing. It’s the historic fabric of the neighborhood,” said committee member Jeanne Van Steen.
Evans questioned why the ordinance is about the exterior and not the interior. ”All you have left is a shell of what once was. Preserving the exterior for what, someone to drive around and see how nice it looks? Signature of a substantial building is what transpires on the inside too. Surprised the ordinance excludes the interior. Why are we preserving a shell of what once was here?” he asked.
Simko explained the difficulties with including the exterior. “Part of it is tough to know if someone tears down a mantle or something inside. We were thinking of the look of the town when someone drives through it. The interior is a whole other can of worms. How do you really enforce? It’s clear when someone takes out windows or puts a new roof on a building; they need a permit to do that. To take a mantle or woodwork down is something that could be done without us being aware of it,” he said.
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