WESTFIELD, NJ — The owner of an historic home on Central Avenue could face an uphill battle in getting government approvals to tear down the residence and put two in its place.
Town Historian Robert Wendel on Tuesday said the Historic Preservation Commission is researching the property at 923 Central Ave. in anticipation of an upcoming hearing, the date for which had yet to be determined. Wendel confirmed that the residence had, during the 1700s, been home to Cornelius Ludlum, a member of the Revolutionary War brigade the Jersey Blues.
“It’s on our historic preservation listing,” said Wendel, who also serves on the Historic Preservation Commission.
Ludlum is listed in the 1923 publication of the “History of Westfield,” which notes that the brigade guarded George Washington at Morristown and Middlebrook, according to a copy of the listing provided by resident Neal Acito, who previously served on the HPC.
Maria Boyes, who chairs the Historic Preservation Commission, was in attendance at Monday's Planning Board meeting at which the board ordered the applicant obtain the HPC's approval for the project.
“Given the fact that it’s a nearly 300-year-old home and there’s only a few of them left, it should be cherished,” said Boyes in an interview. “There’s no reason to knock it down.”
While both an attorney and an expert for the property owner — 923 Central Ave. LLC — at Monday's meeting said the proposed development would benefit the community, Planning Board members identified the residence as historically significant.
“It’s identified as potentially historic, we should have it go to the HPC,” said Planning Board Chairman Robert Newell.
Architectural records show the home dates back to 1757, the applicant’s planner James Watson said under questioning from the board. Watson discussed driveway placement, grading and the variances his client is seeking for the property of .39 acres. He did not identify historical significance as his client's prime concern.
“I was under the impression that it was researched, and we didn’t have to do anything with it,” Watson said of the property.
Existing regulations call for a minimum lot area of 8,000-square-feet within 134 feet of the front lot line, while the proposed lot areas amount to 6,700-square-feet each, the agenda states. The width of the lots proposed are 50-feet, while the town’s regulations call for a minimum width of 60 feet in that zone, the agenda says.
“We don’t necessarily look kindly on subdivisions: tearing down a house and putting up two … especially a 1757 house,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle, who serves on the planning board.
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