SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — JESPY House clients, employees, and trustees applauded at the March 2 South Orange Planning Board meeting as the board approved their petition for construction variances to build on a 74 square foot addition to accommodate the installation of an elevator on the side of a house to be renovated for JESPY clients.

The Academy Street house is under contract to JESPY House and, once purchased and made accessible for those with disabilities, will be home to six JESPY House clients. JESPY House is a South Orange-based non-profit which provides support services to 260 local adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The six-bedroom home, built in 1906, will be fitted with an elevator which will make four stops, from the basement to the third floor. Per discussions with neighbors, an acoustic barrier will be utilized to make sure no elevator noise is heard from the outside, and the roof line will be constructed to blend the new addition with the existing home.

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Much discussion went to topic of the parking variance asked for by JESPY House. The ordinance requires three parking spots for this use, but the short, wide driveway to the home only affords two spots. Extra parked cars and traffic were the stated concerns of several neighborhood residents who spoke at the hearing.Audrey Winkler, executive director of JESPY House, in advocating for a variance, explained that group homes are to be treated under local zoning as other single family homes, and that the six residents would constitute one family with two parking spots, “just like every other family in the neighborhood.” She also noted that the adults who would be living there are developmentally disabled and cannot drive and therefore do not own cars.

The other variances granted concerned the setback of the home and slight loss of square footage on an upper floor due to the addition of the elevator.

JESPY House trustee and South Orange resident Denise Rekem celebrated at the end of the three-hour hearing. “We are so excited that the town is supporting JESPY House and the need for accessible housing for our clients,” she said.

Winkler said she’s already looking ahead to the next stage: construction. “We are thrilled” with the approval, she said, “and the sooner we can get it built, the sooner our clients can move in.”