Westfield Zoning Board Grapples with Three Cases

WESTFIELD, NJ – The heat from the abnormally warm weather on Monday carried into the Westfield Municipal building Monday night as tensions rose during the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting when three on-going cases caused the meeting to last for hours. 

The two cases that posed problems for the board included the case of Karen Saminski, a Westfield resident, and the case of a group of residents located on Livingston Street.

In the case of Mrs. Saminski, who resides on Central Avenue, she proposed that her garage, which is under restoration, is not in violation of town ordinances.  Her argument was that the restoration was nothing but a restoration and that she was not changing the original structure, which she claimed had been there since the 1920s.

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“It is there and there is no testimony when it was created,” Board member Loughlin said.

Loughlin was not satisfied with the evidence that she brought for her case and deemed her responses were “not appropriate” for the case at hand.

“An act of God” the board said, was the only way the town would allow for a restructuring of the garage and that since an “act of God” did not occur her construction on the garage was in violation.

“If the wind blew it down, would it be an act of God?” Saminski asked in response.

For Saminski, the sudden halt on the progress of restoring the garage was “an emergency.” 

Saminski and the Board continued to go back and forth on the issue and no motion was carried.  They agreed to continue the case at the next zoning board meeting.

Next to go before the board was Sherry Hines, who resides at Stoneleigh Park.  The resident was seeking approval to construct an addition in her front yard.  Her decision to alter her residence meant that an ordinance requiring her to have a two-car garage was triggered, but only a one-car garage was proposed.

After her case was presented, the board motioned to approve her request.

Last on the agenda was the case for 209-211 and 215-217 Livingston Street.  The applicants were seeking to approve the subdivision of the existing lot so that they could change the duplex homes on the property into separate homes by dividing the lot in half at the party wall of the house.

There seemed to be some confusion by the board as to why these buildings were built in a zone that did not allow for such development.

The residents argued that it would be better for the town if the buildings were under ownership by the parties as opposed to being rented.

“Public policy in this country is to increase home ownership,” Steven Lyden, a licensed planner in New Jersey.

Lyden proposed that they were not introducing a “foreign” building to the neighborhood, but simply trying to divide the lot so there could be four first-time home buyers who could work to maintain the property.

After the public commentary was closed the board struggled with approval.  In the end, the board motioned to deny the subdivision of the lots. 

Kristyna Zuzzio  is a student in Professor Pat Winters Lauro's class at Kean University, which is partnering with TheAlternativePress.com to cover Westfield this semester.

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