The planning board cut down to tear down a historic home and replace it with two modern homes on Monday night, a move neighbors see as a victory for not just the 'character' of their neighborhood, but a move that speaks to preserving the overall character of the village.
Planning board members individually said in deliberations that their reasons for voting down the application– knocking down the 1850 home at 975 East Ridgewood Ave and subdividing the single lot with two 3,200 square foot homes as a way to better provide rhythm to the neighborhood, and perhaps a hefty profit for developer Robert Jennee–were not centered on the ancillary testimony of a real estate agent who testified the house was in too poor a condition to sell, nor the objector's appraiser who spoke of the value of the home.
Instead, Chairman David Nicholson said, the key issue was the ordinances and village planning guides (specifically, the 2006 Master Plan revision), along with the proposed variances requested, among them a hardship variance (C-1) to allow for setbacks and other alterations, as well as a separate variance noting the changes proposed would outweigh the detriments imposed (C-2).
Nicholson said when the planning board was drafting sections of the 2006 Master Plan revision, particularly regarding infill subdivisions, "this is the application we had in mind." The application was rejected unanimously.
Nicholson and Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh, also a planning board member, said while the proposed corner lot wasn't so much an issue, there were serious problems with the interior lot being too large for the space.
"I disagree with the planners. In this particular case . .. a better path is a single house on a single lot," Nicholson said.
Albert Pucciarelli, the vice chairman, agreed that the variances sought were not met by the application said he wanted Ridgewood to avoid becoming "Levittown."
Jennee's attorney Charles Collins said repeatedly through the process that the 1850 home would not be renovated to its former condition. Instead, he said, it's more likely Jennee will knock down the home and place a house "as big as 5,000 square feet" should the application not be granted.