The following letter was submitted by Linda J. Barth on behalf of the Somerville History Roundtable to the Somerville Planning Board and Borough Council regarding pending changes to the borough's Master Plan and their recommendations.
SOMERVILLE, NJ - At recent planning board meeting, the members of the Somerville History Roundtable listened to a discussion of the history element of the borough’s master plan.
As a group of citizens concerned with land use in Somerville, the Roundtable wishes to submit the following suggestions for the history element:
Suggested changes for the Master Plan revision October 21, 2019
Introduction, Section A. General -- While we are satisfied that the Master Plan recommends that Somerville remain committed to being a “residential community” and that efforts will be made to permit office and mixed residential re-use of existing older building,” there is not a clearly stated commitment to promoting adaptive re-use of older buildings in the Borough’s commercial and professional areas.
Section B. Master Plan -- We like that the plan proposes to “avoid dispersion or linear expansion of redevelopment areas” (see pg. 6 under Central Business District) and would like that statement added to the Introduction, so that it is clear that it applies to all areas within the Borough.
II. Master Plan Elements. Goals and Policies for the Future (p. 3) -- We request a statement be added to the goal of “Evaluating existing regulations to ensure the preservation of established residential areas” that specifically recommends protection of residential neighborhoods directly abutting proposed redevelopment areas.
Central Business District Goal and Policies (p 4) -- The policy to “Maintain the Division Street Pedestrian Mall” could be construed as applying to just street traffic. We recommend amending this by adding “and preserve its unique architectural character as an emerging arts district.”
Historical Goal and Policies (p. 11 in previous drafts, now p. 7) -- Please expand the previously stated policy “Protect architecturally significant buildings…” to read: “Protect architecturally significant buildings, identified in existing or updated local, county and state inventories of architectural, cultural and historic resources that contribute to the character of the community.” This will make clear that the designation of “architecturally significant” is not arbitrary and acknowledge that the county will shortly release its Preservation Plan, which can be consulted in the decade ahead.
1990 Master Plan Land Use. Area 2 -- Last paragraph on p.8, referring to the multi-story building that replaced Landmark has a typo. This building is 5 stories, not 4.
1990 Master Plan Land Use. Area 3A (p 9) -- Please include East High Street along with East Cliff Street as areas of adjacent residential structures that should be protected. There are still a few residences and POR conversions with apartments in this area.
1990 Master Plan Land Use. Area 8 (p 10) -- This area refers to the Gaston Avenue Redevelopment Area. It needs to reiterate the commitment to “avoid dispersion or linear expansion” and to specifically note that the residential character neighborhoods of East High and East Cliff needs to be considered in any development of the Gaston Ave corridor in this area.
1990 Master Plan Land Use. Area 10 (p. 11) -- A specific provision in the 1990 Master Plan had a historical preservation policy to establish a Conservation District on the portion of the Washington Place neighborhood (p 13), but it has been eliminated in the revision. This provision should be re-instated. This neighborhood running along Washington Place from South Middaugh east to the NJ Transit Railroad property contains not only significant colonial-era properties but represents the development of a late Victorian/early 20th-century neighborhood as the former Wallace/Miller farmstead was subdivided. It was described in the 2008 Historic Analysis, which the Planning Board adopted as an Appendix to the Master Plan.
Historical Preservation Element Apprendix to Master Plan. (p. 56) -- The list of national register properties should also include state-recognized eligible properties that are in the Borough. These are the potential pool of the historic and aesthetic resources and should be listed for future planning board members. Please add to the list “Not currently listed but having official State Historic Preservation opinions supporting eligibility are Somerville’s Victorian Train Station and the Downtown Somerville Commercial Area.
Thank you for considering these suggestions.