Montclair Commission Debates Historic Character in New Development

In the latest meeting of the Montclair Historical Preservation Commission, discussions centered on a proposal for the development of a new building on Wheeler Street, located within the proposed Wheeler Street historic district. The session delved into the design of the new structure, which sought to blend traditional and contemporary elements, and its potential impact on the historic character of the neighborhood.

The property on Wheeler Street, included in a 2019 intensive level architectural survey, became the focus as the applicant’s representative outlined plans for a minor subdivision to create two lots. One lot would retain the existing two-family home, while the second lot was slated for a new development. The principal architect presented slides showing the current state of the property and proposed new building, with an emphasis on design elements that would complement the historic surroundings and offer views of Glenfield Park.

The proposal featured a two-story brick front intended to align with the neighborhood’s heritage, transitioning to a more modern rear section with a different facade material and a gable roof. The commission reviewed the project’s renderings, landscaping plan, exterior lighting, and the total number of dwelling units.

During the debate, commission members examined the proposed building’s design compatibility with the historic district. One member underscored the importance of developing a building that respects the district’s character while reflecting contemporary times, highlighting the dynamic nature of historic districts. This sparked a discussion about the balance between preserving the area’s historic ambiance and introducing modern elements.

The choice of facade materials became a point of contention, as some commissioners expressed a preference for fiber cement because of its smooth finish, which contrasts with the brick and could complement the neighborhood’s contemporary aspect. However, concerns about the introduction of a new facade material potentially out of sync with the neighborhood were also voiced.

Further, there was debate regarding specific design elements, such as the black material on the building’s facade and the addition of muttons to some windows to reflect the older section of the building. While the commissioners generally supported the project, they conveyed the need for careful consideration of these details to maintain the street view’s integrity.

In addition to the architectural concerns, the commission tackled a referral from the Zoning Board of Adjustment about the same property. The subdivision was not seen as harmful to the neighborhood, but commissioners emphasized the necessity for the planning board to present a design for the new building that would ensure its congruence with the neighborhood’s character.

The commission also approved several resolutions, including the hiring of an architectural heritage consultant, an engineering firm, and a law firm to serve as the commission’s attorney. They granted a certificate of appropriateness for the last application of 2023 and approved an amendment to the demolition ordinance. Moreover, there was a proposition to form two new committees: one to handle certificate of appropriateness applications and another to examine the historic preservation element of the master plan.

The commission addressed the need to fill a vacant spot on the design review committee and discussed assignments for the newly formed committees. Committee reports were presented, providing updates on minor applications, advisory committee meetings, and outreach efforts.

The meeting concluded with a sense of accomplishment, as one commissioner noted the efficiency of the proceedings, which allowed for an early adjournment. A motion to adjourn was approved, and the next meeting was scheduled for March 21st.

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.
Sean M Spiller
Historic Preservation Commission Officials:
Kathleen Bennett, Jason Hyndman, Stephen Rooney, John Reimnitz, Michael Graham, Gerald Sweeney, Nicholas Giuliano, Hussain Farwa (Secretary), Janice Talley (Assistant Secretary), Janine Bauer (Attorney)

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