South Orange Moves Ahead With Historic Preservation Commission

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Applause and whistles greeted the Board of Trustees’ first step in creating a Historic Preservation Commission with a 6-0 vote to introduce the ordinance its meeting Monday night.

Approximately 40 people turned out for Monday’s meeting. Members and supporters of the Montrose Park Historic District Association and West Montrose Neighborhood Association were among those speaking in favor of the Commission during the public comment sessions.

“We are the interim caretakers” of historical properties, said Naoma Welk, president of MPHDA. “We must preserve them for future generations.”

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A request to demolish the mansion at 425 Scotland Road filed by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, which operates Marylawn of the Oranges Academy, highlights the need for a Commission, speakers told the trustees.

The property is currently zoned for single-family homes, according to Trustee Mark Rosner, but there has been some talk about selling the land to a developer for a high-rise apartment building. Steven Rother, village counsel, said that the demolition permit application has been returned to the Sisters of Charity for additional information.

Trustee Janine Bauer noted that creation of a Commission would require several steps and would not likely be a factor in the fate of the Marylawn property.

A public hearing and vote on the adoption of the ordinance to create a Commission is planned for the June 11 meeting. Bauer said that if the ordinance is adopted, the board must appointment members. After that, the first task of the Commission would be a study of the village’s master plan for development, working with a planner with expertise in historic preservation.

Trustee Nancy Gould proposed creating a group consisting of trustees and residents that would meet with representatives of the Sisters of Charity to discuss alternatives to demolition. Rosner supported her proposal, adding, “We do need to move fast.”

The second topic that generated comment from the public and discussion by the board was the 2012 municipal budget – specifically, funding for the Community Coalition on Race, YouthNet and for a business recruiter. The board approved a $15,000 service agreement with YouthNet and an $18,000 service agreement with CCR. It also agreed to appropriate $10,000 for a part-time business recruiter. (See the related story.)

In other action, the Board of Trustees:

introduced an ordinance with a 5-1 vote approving a revised charter and submission of the charter to the New Jersey Legislature. Bauer, who has stated previously the village should explore a different form of government, voted no. Included in  the revised charter is dropping the word “township” from the village’s name and giving the board the option of moving municipal elections to November.

postponed naming Jonathan Rose Cos. as the conditional redeveloper for the parcel at Valley and Third streets. Gould said she wanted more time to study the proposal.

learned that David Farer has been designated as the special master in the ongoing litigation between the village and the East Orange Water Commission. Farer is an attorney in the environmental department of the law firm Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis. Rother said the parties will conduct a telephone conference early next week. The litigation involves the water quality in South Orange. The village posts water testing results on its website.

learned there is a possibility of relocating offices to a building at South Orange and Turrell avenues, owned by Seton Hall University, during Village Hall renovations, slated to begin this summer. The original plan called for setting up trailers.

defeated a proposal by Torpey to establish a Municipal Election Date Advisory Committee to study the idea of moving municipal elections from May to November. The board voted 4-2 against the proposal, with Trustees Davis Ford and Levison voting in favor.

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