In my neighborhood there is a newly constructed 4,800 square foot house that has been sitting unoccupied for over a year. Why? Part of the answer must be that the house, which has an address on Wright Street, is actually built on an unattractively situated flag lot that puts the front yard of the house squarely in the backyards of the neighboring homes on Raritan Road, (much to the dismay of the residents of those homes I’m sure!)
On September 28th, the township Planning Board takes up the issue of permitting additional flag lots in this neighborhood, near the intersection of Ashbrook Drive and Cooper Road. The saga of the unsellable Wright Street flag lot should serve as a cautionary note. The plans for the proposed Cooper flag lots have two wooded properties accessible only via an 800 foot shared private driveway. And of course, the large houses built on these lots would also face the backyards of neighboring homes.
So here again we have the makings of a situation where large houses stand vacant for extended time periods. The negative impact of unattractively situated unsold houses on surrounding property values would be cause enough for the concern of neighborhood residents – but this case is made worse by the fact that the proposed houses would be only accessible by a long private driveway. Such a driveway – because it is private – cannot be patrolled by the town police; it will not be cleaned by the town’s snow plows or leaf pickup trucks; it will not be cleared of fallen tree branches, etc. What are the implications of an unmaintained private road in the event emergency vehicle access is needed due to a fire or some other emergency?
These are just a few of reasons why flag lot development should be avoided in Scotch Plains. Fortunately, the Township Planning Board and/or the Zoning Board of Adjustment must grant variances to allow such development to proceed. But these variances can be granted if the Board believes the community is not concerned about the negative impact the proposed development would have on the neighborhood.
Those interested in voicing their concerns and objections to flag lots should do so at the public Planning Board meeting to be held on September 28th at 7:30 p.m.in the Municipal Building.
Scotch Plains, NJ