Montclair Planning Board Considers How To Protect Town’s Historic Character With Demolition Ordinance

Montclair Township attorney Ira Karasick presented the Montclair Planning Board Monday with the language for an ordinance that would hit a pause button on demolitions, to ensure that potentially historic homes are not demolished and give the township time to consider a property’s possible historic relevance before a property owner can demolish it, unlike what happened with the properties at 172 Lloyd Road and 14 Undercliff Road.

172 Lloyd Road, Montclair was demolished — a new ordinance might prevent other homes with historic merit from disappearing.

The number of demolitions in Montclair is, on average, 10 per year. There was an anti-demolition ordinance in Montclair previously in place, but it was repealed by the Montclair Town council in 2012. The new ordinance being drafted would protect an expanded list of properties from demolition by requiring them to first undergo demolition review. The new list would apply to homes in any of the areas named in the historic preservation element of Montclair’s masterplan as well as homes detailed on the Junior League historic list. It also would apply to any properties already designated historic locally, or by state or federal designation.

This expanded list could total roughly 5000 homes in Montclair, but the ordinance has been described as broad class, with narrow activity, meaning that most homes would not be considered historic, even if they are located in a historically-designated neighborhood. If a property is found not to be historic upon review, then the owner would be able to proceed and seek a demolition permit.

Some Montclair Planning Board expressed concerns about the ordinance being applied in an arbitrary or inconsistent way, in terms of how properties might be considered. The consensus was there were drafting issues that the Planning Board wished to review and correct, but the majority of the Montclair Planning Board members voted 7-2 in favor of supporting the ordinance subject to changes and criteria being added to make it consistent with the master plan.

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