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Planning Board to Issue Ruling on Debated 'Character' Subdivision

Neighbors object to a developer's proposal to knock down an old home and place two relatively large homes on one subdivided lot.

After months of waiting, neighbors on East Ridgewood and Walthery Avenue will hear the planning board's decision to approve or deny

Developer Robert Jennee purchased the historic 1850 home from Barbara Lewis (of  Gilbert and Sullivan Opera) after she was unable to successfully sell the landmark home in less-than-landmark condition. Jennee and his representatives say the most practical thing to do for the neighborhood is to allow him to knock the home down and place two modern homes of 3,200 feet on the same sized 25,000 square foot lot (just less than a half acre), which would be subdivided.

Using aerial photos, Jenne's planner David Troast said this would "correct" a property that would not be allowed under present zoning law (it was grandfathered), and would be more "in rhythm" with the other homes in the neighborhood.

Numerous variances would be required, which objecting attorney Harold Cook (representing neighbors) said would do nothing but harm the character of the neighborhood. His own witnesses testified to it being disruptive, and above all else, not in line with current village planning documents, which frowns on infill subdivisions.

Basically, neighbors said Jennee is trying to make a quick buck at the expense of what makes Ridgewood the Village of Ridgewood – character (however that's defined) and say putting two large homes on smaller lots just doesn't make sense.

Jennee's attorney Charles Collins upset many neighbors last go around when he threatened that if two residential homes cannot be placed, perhaps two homes for those suffering from head injuries, the group homes for battered women, developmentally disabled, daycare facility and others.

He did back down later in the meeting, instead saying–as he had previously–a 5,000 square foot home could be built on that lot instead. Although questions remain as to the viability of the real estate market for a new 5,000 square foot home, ultimately the planning board has final say. The board will meet at 7:30 p.m. in the municipal courthouse on the third floor of Village Hall.

Kiko Arase April 05, 2011 at 08:59 PM
This should not be approved under any circumstances or exceptions. There is no benefit to the Village; only detriment and degradation. One house and one house only. That's the only scenario that is in conformance with Master Plan and Village Code. Two of the variances necessary are for minimum lot sizes and another is minimum lot depth. These are big, big variances to grant . . . NOT ONE MINIMUM LOT SIZE, BUT TWO. The developer is requesting approval of substandard non-conforming lots with oversized houses on them. SIMPLY PUT, THERE IS NOT ENOUGH LAND FOR TWO HOUSES. The entire proposal (infill subdivision) conflicts with the Master Plan and the Village Code. The developers attorney has leveled unrealistic threats at the Planning Board throughout the entire hearing. There's no market for a 5000 sq ft house on the east side of town on Ridgewood Ave. Because of the required setbacks, these houses will be sitting on top of one another effectively creating the appearance of a 6400 sq. foot house. They need so many variances because they are shoehorning the houses in. And the one house still has the out of character underground garage designed to maximim the sq footage of the home. With finished basements (and they are designed to be finished), each house will be 4200 sq. foot (on a 9,000 sq ft lot . . . ridiculous).
Lawrence April 05, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Facts about the proposed subdivision 1. it conflicts with Village Code (7 variances or so). Neither lot meets code. 2. all variances requested are self created by the developer 3. it conflicts with the Master Plan (infill subdivisions are strongly discouraged) 4. not a single resident of Ridgewood supported it 5. multiple residents, some represented by counsel, opposed it 6. it's really a choice between two 3200 sq ft house or one 3700 - 4ooo sq ft house 7. the developer WILL make plenty of money on one house as he did with his most recent flip one block away. No financial hardship for developers. 8. there's no financial benefit, and likely a loss, to the Village as any tax revenues generated will quickly be spent on educating the children who will live here. Seems to me that one 4000 sq. ft home on a large lot (similar to what is there now) is more in character with the neighborhood than two 3200 sq ft homes on tiny lots. Just look across the street at the southern side of East Ridgewood Ave. All those houses are around 3o00 sq feet on 22,000 sq foot lots.

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