ROXBURY, NJ – The site of the former Roxbury Inn on Main Street in Succasunna is on track to become home for seven townhouse units.

Township officials recently changed the site’s zoning, a move done in deference to a developer’s desire to build the townhouses there. The 2-acre parcel has been vacant for 36 years.

During that time, a number of proposals for the property, previously zoned for retail use, came and went. The zoning change creates a special zone just for the site called the Main Street Multi-Family Residence District.

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The new zone was created by the Roxbury Mayor and Council on Oct. 9. It was recommended by the township’s Master Plan Committee and endorsed by the township Planning Board in July.

“The purpose of the Main Street Multi-Family District is to provide multi-family housing with an affordable housing component that is compatible in context and enhances the unique historical, cultural, aesthetic and scenic character of the township’s Main Street Succasunna Historical District,” says the ordinance that changed the zoning.

It sets forth restrictions on the site’s development including a minimum rear yard setback of 100 feet, a minimum side yard setback of 10 feet, a maximum building coverage of 25 percent and a maximum building height of 35 feet.

Morristown-based Equinet Properties approached the township a year ago with the idea of building an apartment building having 12 1-bedroom units or six 2-bedroom units. The current plans, spelled out in the ordinance, call for five 2.5-story townhouses and two affordable “stacked flats.”

Neighbors Have Questions

Several residents of West Maple Avenue, whose backyard abut the Main Street site, attended the council meeting to ask questions and express concern about how the proposed building would impact the neighborhood. They were told by members of the council and Roxbury Planner Russell Stern that the proposed buildings will be substantially shielded from their view.

“We’re trying to keep a buffer between Main Street - what could be built there - and the residential properties behind it,” said Roxbury Councilman Bob DeFillippo. “This was absolutely top of mind. That’s what this change of zoning gets us to: A project that would not interfere with the community behind it and be an asset to Main Street.”

The zone calls for construction that fits in with the 19th Century and early 20th Century flavor of Main Street. Town officials advised the West Maple Avenue residents that the units would be for sale, not for rent. The five units that aren’t deemed “affordable” are expected to sell for up to $500,000 each and the affordable units will not be particularly cheap, said DeFillippo and Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee.

A Home for Students

The former building on the site, built in the early 19th Century, served as the dormitory for the Roxbury (or Succasunny) Academy, a private school. The adjacent building, now an antique store, was the schoolhouse, said historian Richard Cramond.

Cramond said the dormitory structure took up much of the now-vacant lot. “It was a Victorian Italianate or Greek Revival building,” he said. “It was quite large … It was probably one of the largest buildings in Roxbury in the early 1900s.”

Veteran Roxbury firefighter Charlie Alpaugh said the structure burned in 1982. At the time, the lower section was used for the Roxbury Inn tavern and there were apartments on the upper floors, he said.

“I know when it burned because I was chief in 1981 and I got through my whole year without losing a building,” recalled Alpaugh. “It was February of 1982 when it burned. I was out of town, working. I was up in Ramsey and I heard it on my pager ... It was a nice building.”

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