Millburn Zoning Board Tackles Variances and FAR Calculations

In a recent meeting, the Millburn Town Zoning Board addressed several significant zoning variance requests, with a particular focus on a complex case involving multiple variances for a property undergoing construction in the R3 Zone District. The board engaged in thorough discussions regarding the interpretation of the floor area ratio (FAR) concerning detached garages in residential properties, revealing divergent opinions and prompting a detailed examination of the township’s zoning ordinance.

The case that dominated the meeting involved Michael Canella’s property, which is currently under construction with proposed accessory uses including a pool house, pergola, inground pool, covered terraces, patios, and a front yard fence. These proposed structures necessitated variance relief from building coverage and lot coverage requirements due to the absence of a rear yard, making this case particularly complex. The debate circled around the property’s classification as a through lot, with questions raised about the justification for the variances sought and the potential impact of the proposed improvements on the surrounding area. The meeting included detailed presentations by a civil engineer and an architect, as well as discussions on the design and placement of the fence, the impact of stormwater detention, and the property’s unique characteristics.

The proposed fence’s design and location prompted a debate, with concerns raised about its unprecedented nature and its potential to exacerbate the existing deer problem in the area. The impact of the proposed construction on neighborhood drainage, access for construction vehicles, and overall neighborhood character was also a focal point of the discussions. Public comments included questions about the increase in impervious coverage, the pool equipment, and the approval process for the pool house.

In addition to the variances for Canella’s property, the board tackled the interpretation of FAR in the R7 zoning district, focusing on whether a property’s garage should be included in the FAR calculation. A professional planner argued that uninhabitable areas like garages should be exempt from FAR calculations, citing industry standards and the zoning ordinance’s definition of a garage as a structure used to store vehicles. The board members deliberated on the implications of excluding garages from FAR calculations, expressing concerns about potential property massing and the clarity of the ordinance. There was a divergence of opinion on the interpretation of the zoning ordinance and the inclusion of accessory structures in FAR calculations, which led to a motion to support a particular interpretation of the ordinance. This motion was ultimately approved.

Other cases addressed during the meeting included a variance request for a property on Park Road in Short Hills, where the homeowner sought to extend the kitchen and add a deck. The architect emphasized the minimal impact and the board members approved the project, citing its modest nature. Similarly, a request for variances on Great Hills Terrace was discussed, where the homeowner aimed to improve laundry facilities and create an open living space. The architect argued that the proposed additions would be in keeping with the style and character of the home and the neighborhood, leading to board approval.

Additionally, the meeting saw an application for a property on Greenwood Drive, where the homeowner sought renovations to accommodate a growing family. Despite questions about building coverage and a new fireplace, the board approved the application. Lastly, an appeal concerning the zoning officer’s determination on the inclusion of a detached garage in FAR calculations sparked debate about the clarity of the ordinance and the need for potential changes to definitions, ultimately concluding without reaching a resolution on the matter.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Annette Romano
Zoning Board Officials:
Craig Ploetner, Jessica Glatt, Joe Caulfield, Chandru Harjani, Amy Lawrence, Gary Rosen, Regina Truitt, Pricilla Saraf, Xiaoxuan (Derek) Peng, Robert Simon (Board Attorney), Eileen Davitt (Zoning Officer/Board Secretary)

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