Montclair HPC: Poolhouse Referral, Keller Williams Signage, Watchung Deli Façade

The Montclair Historic Preservation Commission

The Montclair Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) went over two applications at its June 28 meeting, but its biggest concern involved a referral to an application slated for consideration by the Zoning Board of Adjustment on July 18.  The Zeltzer family, owners of a house in the historic area overlooking the Montclair Kimberley Academy, plan to add a poolhouse with retractable walls to the side of their property, but before the zoning board can review it, it asked the HPC to make recommendations on the project.

The Zeltzer house, at 35 Afterglow Way, was built in 1912 and designed by architect A.F. Morris.  The poolhouse would be connected to the side of the house and stand at the basement level, the basement having been built into the steep hill of the property.  At issue was the roof, because of the possibility that it could be seen from the street.  (Afterglow Way, along with Parkhurst Place, which it becomes after a ninety-degree turn to the east, is paved with yellow-tined bricks; both streets are collectively known as the “Yellow Brick Road.”)  The poolhouse would open up to the backyard and stand 15 feet over the rear, but the front would face a 12-foot retaining wall separating the front yard from the side and rear yards, hence the poolhouse roof would protrude three feet above the wall and be visible from Afterglow Way.  The reason it came before the Board of Adjustment is because a principal structure cannot exceed 65 percent of the width of the lot.  The addition conforms to the side-yard setback but exceeds the 65-percent standard because it is to be connected to the house via a breezeway corridor.

Site plan for the pool house at 35 Afterglow Way

Architect Edmundo Lopez explained how he designed it to be less intrusive to the view from the street.  The pitched roof would stand just slightly above the ground level of the first floor.  Commissioner Jenny Gillette had trouble visualizing the effect, but Commissioner John Reimnitz though it was discreetly designed, and he found the 65-percent width standard for side wings irrelevant because the topography and the retaining wall would hide the bulk of the proposed structure from the street.  Essex Fells resident Frank Godlewski, who has been vocal in Montclair historic preservation issues, said in public comment that the pool would add value to the 1912 house.

The commissioners said they would have no trouble with the appearance of the proposed subject, endorsing the poolhouse design with three conditions.  The conditions were that the landscaping hiding the side yard and the retaining wall from the front be maintained; that additional landscaping be added; and that the poolhouse façade have three coats of stucco with the metal roof painted in an earth tone.  Lopez and homeowner Zachary Zeltzer thanked the HPC for its input, and the zoning board will consider the bulk variance that would allow a side wing to exceed a 65 percent width.

35 Afterglow Way. Image courtesy of Google.

As confusing as the Afterglow Way referral seemed owing to the complicated topography of the property, the application for signage at the newly renovated Warner Building on Lorraine Avenue left some HPC commissioners completely perplexed.  Julie Corbo, director of the Keller Williams franchise in Montclair, is moving her office to the Warner Building, recently renovated and expanded by Caldwell developer Michael Pavel, and she presented her office’s signage plan to the HPC.  The HPC only had to go over whether it conformed to the historic character of the area, but it found more issue than that.  Corbo and J.C. Aviles of Competitive Signs and Graphics offered the following plan — two blade signs, one along the Lorraine Avenue façade and the other on the façade along the parking lot were included, as well as two frosted Keller Williams signs on the glass-door entrances to two retail establishments, the Montclair Bread Company and Studio Montclair, that are taking up residence in the first-floor retail space in the partnership with Keller Williams.  A third center door sits between them.  The glass door on   the left leads into a space with the entrance to the Montclair Bread Company immediately to the left; the glass door on the right leads to a space with the entrance to Studio Montclair immediately to the right. Both glass doors and the center door connect to an open entry hall with access to the first-floor rear space to be used by Keller Williams as a conference space and to an elevator to Keller Williams’ second-floor office space.  The real estate office takes up the entire second floor.

The original signage plan, Deputy Planning Director Graham Petto told the HPC, was to have KW logos on the overhead signs, but the Planning Board rejected that plan because there was “too much Keller Williams.”

The HPC recommended putting glass-door signs on the glass entrances indicating the adjacent businesses with the legend “at KW” to avoid confusion between the real estate office and the two retail businesses and to indicate that the real estate firm is working together with the retail establishments.  The overhead signs above each retail establishments would have just the names of the retail businesses, and the HPC recommended that the overhead signs should be consistent with the two other retail businesses taking up residence at the ground level.   Both of these recommendations were included with a third one – the recommendation that the halo lighting of the blade signs not be too bright – and the application was approved. Keller Williams plans to open its Lorraine Avenue office in September.

The board also approved a plan by Anne and Peter Von Hoffman, the owners of the Watchung Deli and the building it occupies, to paint the faux-brick façade of their building.  HPC members noted that the Watchung Deli takes up little frontage along Watchung Avenue, with most of the surface area being a plate glass window, and they agreed that a fresh coat of paint would be beneficial.  Commissioner Gillette said that it was pointless to preserve a faux-brick façade that was not original, and Commissioner David Greenbaum said a paint job would give it a cleaner look.  Commissioner Reimnitz’s only stipulation was that the paint job should match the adjacent buildings.  Anne Von Hoffman said she was looking at a soft gray look.  The board approved the application with the condition that the exterior trim be cleaned and that the silver molding on the façade be given a brass or bronze color to match the trim. Commissioner Caroline Kane Levy recused herself from this otherwise unanimous vote.

Stephen Rooney, who is both an HPC commissioner and a Planning Board member, updated the HPC on the Planning Board’s action toward the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment project.  He said that the board is looking to hire a grocery store architect to go over the project before the board meets again on July 23 while the developers revise their plans.  HPC Chair Kathleen Bennett seemed pleased by the news.

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  1. Funny how much the town cares about a pool house, when right around the corner on Upper Mountain another single family home was just knocked down for one of those two family monstrosities with no issues raised.

  2. Unfortunately, the Planning Board just reaffirmed they have no problem with this I-495-style construction.

    The Council will reaffirm this type of construction at their July 10th meeting.

    Neither body has design standards. Neither body understands parking. They’re both flying blind.

    It is pretty “funny” to watch this all play out once you acknowledge the #me too wave among the residents. The 1st ward get this, the 2nd ward gets that, the 3rd & 4th wards get their things. The planning board & council are just the facilitators. They sugarcoat our greed so we can say how amazingly special Montclair is. As our web site says, we are one of NJ’s “most unique” communities. Most unique! Yes, most unique. It just says it all. Most unique.

  3. Did I mention our most unique councilors from he 1st & 2nd ward and those at-large? Who won’t fix the most unique – & wrong – 35mph speed limit on Upper Mountain Ave. Yes, this is the most unique stupidity of a most unique group. It is mostly uniquely funny.

  4. Please put moratorium on any more developing in Montclair downtown. There is now a biergarten right under my bedroom that is open until 2 am. This means starting out from about 8 pm to 2am the next morning there is screaming, people milling about, and drinking on the sidewalk. And it looks like that what is going to happen to old Bellevue Theater in Upper Montclair–another bar going in. What was the planning board and town council thinking?

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