WESTFIELD, NJ – The Westfield Board of Adjustment held a hearing regarding Country Classics’ application of a proposed multi-family townhouse on East Broad Street on Monday evening. The property, more commonly known as the Daniel Pierson home, is one of Westfield's oldest houses and is currently zoned for single-family houses. It is located outside of the historic district.
The application proposed by Country Classics, an established real estate development company, seeks a number of variances from the board of adjustment and approval to construct six new townhouses at 1481 East Broad Street.
John Schmidt, an attorney representing the applicant, issued an opening statement to the board before introducing his client, Scott Van Cleef, vice president of Country Classics in a cross-examination.
“I recognize that we are seeking a good deal of variances,” Schmidt said to the board. “I would hope that the board keeps an open mind here. I think that you will see that this is a good application that presents a solid plan for the use of that piece of property, which we will suggest to the board is a transitional area.”
Van Cleef said he and his partners carefully selected the proposed location.
“We looked at Westfield and after spending time with several realtors, we felt there was a housing need for people living in single family homes that were seeking to downsize,” Van Cleef said. “We found that this particular property would be a good place to do that project.”
He explained that each unit will be approximately 2,500 sq. feet excluding the sizes of the garages and basements. In addition, it will be an age-restricted property that will only allow residents 55 years of age or older and absolutely no children under 18 years old. The concept is to attract local residents from Westfield and surrounding towns.
While it is being billed as a place for residents to "downsize," the proposed three-bedroom townhouses are projected to fetch a price in the ballpark of $700,000 per unit.
“We thought this was good transitional area – we looked at the church, gas station and directly across the street with the apartment complexes being built,” explained Van Cleef, who said that they’ve presented the project to an unidentified number of residents in the surrounding area.
Floren Robinson, a resident on Carol Road whose recently purchased home is directly behind the proposed multi-family unit, was among the dozen or so residents who were in attendance at Monday's meeting in opposition of the proposed plan.
“My client doesn’t believe that minor adjustments and tweaks will change the essential nature of this application,” said Richard Schkolnick, an attorney at Brown Moskowitz & Kallen representing Robinson. “They believe that this proposal is simply too much development for this site given the parameters of the RS-12 Zone.”
Schkolnick argued that each of the near-dozen proposed variances were substantial and had a “serious impact on the public good and the surrounding neighborhood.” He suggested that the only thing unique about the property was its size and that existing zoning regulations should prevent the proposed multi-family complex from being built adding that the existing guidelines in the updated Master Plan calls for a single family residential property on a 12,000 sq. foot lot.
After countering with a defense against the proposed townhouse on the historic property, Schkolnick stated that the applicant failed to meet the notice requirements outlining age restrictions for the proposed property, which he said prevents the board from having jurisdiction to hear the case. He suggested there was a recent case in Garwood that supported his request to have the applicant refile a notice that includes the age-restricted provision.
The board allowed Schmidt’s team and his client to discuss the allegation privately ahead of the applicant’s request to introduce their engineer, which planned for an hour-long presentation on the specifics of the proposed project. The board informed the applicant earlier in the meeting that they would impose a hard stop at 11 p.m., which would prevent the full hearing of the engineer and that they would likely have to start over at the next proceeding.
Upon returning after a short conversation, Schmidt disagreed that the age-restriction provision was required to be outlined on the notice, but conceded that he would look into it if necessary to include on a subsequent notice before allowing the board to dismiss.
Proceedings will be carried onto the next meeting on Wednesday, March 29, suffice that the applicant meets the notification requirements, if proven necessary. The engineer representing the applicant is expected to speak at that meeting and will review the proposed designs with the board.