Updated at 7:14 p.m. Feb. 22

WESTFIELD, NJ – It was not a popular argument to make, but they made it anyway as the Town Council earlier this week approved a zone change officials said would mitigate future subdivisions in the area of New England Drive, a quiet street with expansive lots.

New England Drive resident Louis Ackerman and an attorney separately objected to the council’s Tuesday approval of an ordinance that changes the zone encompassing New England Drive to one that prohibits developers from splitting the properties there.

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“If that’s going to restrict a builder with new side setbacks, that’s going to diminish the value of my property,” Ackerman said.

Mayor Shelley Brindle cited the town planner’s analysis of the zone, which followed strident objections from the public heard during a subdivision application for a property on that street in December. It is an application the Planning Board denied.

“This was brought to our attention by the residents of New England Drive as a result of a recent subdivision application,” Brindle said. “Upon our review by our town planner, Don Sammet, it was discovered that the current zoning was an oversight when the zoning recommendations were made in 1991.”

An attorney with the firm McCarter & English, Gary T. Hall, urged the council to reconsider the zone change.

“There’s a saying: ‘be careful what you wish for,’” Hall said. “The neighbors didn’t want one house [built] in their neighborhood so everybody else, they’re going to be nonconforming and as a result, they’re going to need a variance when they do an addition.”

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Hall said the update is “spot zoning,” a reference to the illegal practice of placing a small area of land in a different zone than that of neighboring properties. He said he would detail the specifics of that argument at a later time.

The zone change for the neighborhood, Hall noted, comes as Westfield embarks on a state-mandated update of its master plan, which could result in updates to the zoning map town-wide.

At least three residents of New England Drive spoke in favor of the zone change, which the council approved by a unanimous vote.

“It’s about preserving our street and the way our street looks,” said Gerri Rothfleisch, who lives on New England Drive. “I don’t think anyone in this town would want to take their street and start subdividing it all over the place.”

Amanda Brouillard, who also lives on that street, told the council she has no problem with her home not conforming with the regulations, as long as those local laws help preserve her neighborhood’s aesthetics.

“I am in full support of that,” Brouillard said of the council’s action. “And again, it’s all about preserving what’s on our street, on our beautiful street.”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that attorney Gary T. Hall did not represent Louis Ackerman, even though both presented similar arguments to the Town Council concerning the New England Drive rezoning.

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