Montclair Planning Board Reviews Pleasant Ave. Subdivision Plan For Eight New Homes

Subdvision of 44 Pleasant Avenue would result in 8 single family homes situated on cul de sac named Lewis Court.

Montclair Planning Board meeting on Monday night drew concerned residents from Pleasant Avenue who wanted to know more about a developer’s plans for 44 Pleasant Avenue, a home with a historic connection to Aubrey Lewis.

44 Pleasant Avenue, the one-time home of the late notable Montclair resident Aubrey Lewis. Image courtesy of Google.

Last year the Montclair Planning Board failed to designate the property with a historic designation. Some residents had hoped to stop the teardown from happening prior to the meeting.

Montclair Planning Board member Jason DeSalvo made it clear to residents on Monday night that the topic of historic designation was off the table. “I know there are those who would love to see the property preserved and I was one who voted for that,” said De Salvo. “But my job here tonight is to cast that aside and deal with the fact that it is not historically designated as much as I might not like that, and deal with facts of land use and the application fairly.”

While letting residents know that the time to comment regarding historic designation was back in January 2016, De Salvo encouraged the public to ask any questions and voice comments or concerns regarding the impact of the development on residents of the avenue.

An aerial photo of Pleasant Avenue and the property to be subdvided.

The home with be razed and the property, 2.5 acres in size, will be divided into 8 new tax lots. The developer proposed a 25 foot setback necessitating a potential variance for the Pleasant Ave. setback.

Michael Lanzafama, vice president of Casey & Keller, Inc. in Millburn, testified as a licensed engineer, land surveyor and professional planner.

He spoke of the area being an eclectic neighborhood with variability in terms of size, width and setback of existing properties and showed an aerial photo of the property.

Lanzafama said the development’s lots would exceed the minimal lot size (7,700 sq. feet) zoned for the area, with lots averaging 11,000 square feet. Lots would be situated along a new street, cul de sac, that the developer was calling Lewis Court.

The new cul de sac would feature 9 American holly trees at the rear terminus of the cul de sac (designed to prevent headlights from shining into adjacent properties) as well as new trees along Pleasant Avenue and 16 along Lewis Court.

Many questions were raised about storm water management and drainage issues and how a home owners association would be established and require the eight home owners to pay into the fund for ongoing maintenance. In answer to a resident’s question, the failure of the water system for the eight homes would only impact those homes and not any surrounding properties.

Aerial view of 44 Pleasant Ave. (NJ Parcels)

Homes on Lewis Court are expected to be priced between $800-900,000. Because the developer is not putting three units per acre on the space, there is no on-sight requirement for affordable housing.

Discussion and continued testimony on the Pleasant Ave. subdivision will continue on Monday, April 3. 7:30 p.m., 205 Claremont Avenue.

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  1. Please! Go back to the drawingboard with a solution that would preserve the house and carriage house. Thats already three or four luxury units… the other houses can go along the south and west property lines. The Johnson Estate, the property behind the Lewis House, preserved the Johnson House when the Orchard Ct development was planned. It is improper to not have landmarked the Lewis House. The developers can possibly come up with a better business plan that would also benefit the values of the surrounding existing properties with the house preserved.

  2. There can’t be double standards for the preservation of Black History in Montclair. Its important American History. Thats how the Washington Street YMCA was lost. Its improper not to have designated this house as a landmark.

  3. frankgg,

    I disagree that the application of Montclair’s HP standards in this case are based on race. The family was quite clear they didn’t want the historical designation and so it wasn’t designated. That is the same standard we have been using in this town ever since the ordinance was passed in 1994.

    If you had argued it should have been protected for its architecture, then it wouldn’t have mattered if the owners were black. The council did not find it architecturally significant and didn’t even bother to vote on the matter. We can’t legally go back and revisit the architectural argument – as you noted previously.

  4. My argument is different. We have the same designation regulations in Caldwell. I’m saying that the significance of the house lies in its important contribution to American Black History and that should not be ignored. The Washington Street YMCA was ignored and it is a terrible loss to the towns historical fabric. The house also is too significant architecturally to demolish and one of the main anchors of the neighborhood. The subdivision scheme can be done to save the house.

  5. The family that owned the house and is the source of its cultural significance is saying it is does not rise to a level of significance to designate. That undercuts your primary argument. Architecturally, the majority have already agreed it does not rise to a level of importance. As to being an anchor for the neighborhood, I don’t know what that means.

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