Allendale Land Use Board Grapples with Precedents in High-Stakes Property Variance Application

At a recent Allendale Land Use Board meeting, a significant property variance application was the focus of a challenging debate. A proposal for a two-story expansion at 41 Elmwood, seeking to increase the floor area ratio (FAR) from 22% to 33%, sparked concerns over the possibility of setting an unwelcome precedent, leading to legal intricacies and further FAR questions.

The session, while characterized by passionate dialogue, revealed the board members’ inclination to push back against change, potentially inhibiting the evolution of land use norms.

Another board member insisted that any precedent established would apply only to similar-sized properties. However, another board member suggested that it would only set a precedent for properties of a similar size.

The unresolved question of what defines a ‘similar size’ added another layer of convolution to the variance application process, however. This ambiguity, combined with issues around site access, drainage, and the scale of the proposed expansion, further amplified the board’s apparent reticence to deal with the issue.

Homeowners Michael Zeoli and Samantha Debenio put forth a strong case, arguing that reducing the variance would significantly derail their remodeling plans, particularly their aspiration to enlarge the kitchen and add bedrooms.

A board member suggested revising the plans based on the board’s comments and resubmitting at a later date, seeming to dismiss the financial burden placed on the homeowners.

Robert Malone, a neighbor of the applicants, raised concerns about the two-story expansion’s proposed dimensions and proximity to his property.

Amidst these challenges, a decision was taken to delay final deliberations until September 20th. The decision grants homeowners a chance to revisit their plans.

Even with their commitment to the FAR standard, the board’s approach may be limiting the potential for dynamic growth within the community.

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