May 6, 2014 at 2:12 PM
WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield residents gathered at the town’s planning board meeting Monday to express disapproval over a proposal for two new houses to be built directly in front of the town’s historical manor park house, what some called the “centerpiece of the neighborhood.”
Michael Mahoney, the applicant for the plan, requested three minor subdivision lots to build two houses on the manor plots in front of the house on 231 Elizabeth Avenue.
One by one, residents stepped forward to ask the board to reconsider or make an adjustment to the proposal, expressing disdain at their community’s over-development and its attempt to squeeze homes into Westfield at the request of buyers who want to live in the beautiful neighborhood, instead of considering how the neighborhood itself would be affected.
Denise Jenner, longtime resident and mother in the area, said she was concerned that the subdivision in front of the manor house would distract from historical value of the home and the look of neighborhood.
“It’s not just the home itself, but it’s the entire manor that is of historical value. There’s trees and a wooded area where the two new homes are, and it really sets the home apart from the others in the neighborhood,” said Jenner. “If it was a two-lot subdivision rather than a three lot subdivision, I think it would be much more aesthetically pleasing to the neighborhood.”
Jenner also addressed the over-development’s effect on Westfield’s Jefferson Elementary School students. She said that the school is already overcrowded and people continue to build homes in the area because they want their kids to go to a good school, without a suggestion for an expansion of the school or something to be done to solve it.
Another resident told the board that there was already a petition with over 50 signatures in motion to have one home be built rather than two.
Other Westfield residents raised issues of impending traffic with the installment of the lots, mentioning numerous car accidents that have occurred on nearby streets due to a tough curve near the area.
Parents expressed worry for child safety due to the number of young children in the area who walk to and from schools and also said that placing two new homes and driveways near the Irving Avenue intersection where the street ends street ends would be even more hazardous.
The board ultimately replied by saying that the issues being presented by the audience were already brought up and considered previously, and these weren’t the board's issues to begin with.
The board said that residents who disagreed with zoning board regulations would have to go through town council to change the rules, but in the case of the manor house it was too late to do so. They also said that the manor house isn’t really historical because it has had so many renovations done to it.
The board accepted the motion to have the lots subdivided, saying that because Mahoney did not ask for a variance in his proposal, they had to approve of the lots as long as they complied with the zoning rules.
The board saw no issue traffic with the two new driveways being added, but suggested getting a stop sign installed on the corner of Irving Avenue. The board concluded by saying that residents will soon see the new homes as part of the neighborhood, as they will blend in eventually over time.
The reporter wrote this story as part of a journalism partnership with Kean University.