At Monday's meeting the members on the dais heard an application for a residence on West Farms Rd.
The proposed project was for a two story building with five age restricted units on the roughly two acre parcel of land. During testimony there were questions about how the property would be maintained and who would be living in the buildings, but in the end the size of the project became the main factor in the board denying the use variance.
The attorney for the applicant argued in his closing statements that the proposed project was more beneficial to the local area than a larger home built on the property. "You have to look at this as just this particular site and would this fit," he said. "It's a good use, it's a good use for the folks that live in Howell, it would be well maintained."
The five units, he said would only have one entrance and one driveway which would limit traffic onto the site. Putting more than one house on the property would make more driveways and the potential for more cars in the area.
Several members of the board did a site visit and the attorney said the proposed project would help to rehabilitate the property. "We're going to make it look good," he said.
Following the testimony board member Michael Sanclimenti said he could not vote for the project. After reviewing the testimony and taking a site visit he said with the property being in an area with "small houses," and a "small church," he did not believe it fit with the area. "It's definitely an older area where zoning was not in affect at that time," he said. "Now there is zoning that's in affect."
Sanclementi said because of the ARE-2 zone he believed it was important to maintain the feel that part of the town has. "This zone is a protection of the area," he said before presenting a motion to deny the application.
Vice Chairman Valeri Morone was another member to visit the site which she said played a part in her vote against the application as she looked at the surrounding properties. "Yes they're on small lots and yes it is a more dense area than the current zone would permit," she said. "But I thought that the size of the structure and the parking lot are just out of scale with everything that I saw out there. I don't think it would fit aesthetically."
Fellow board member Wendell Nanson had brought up the idea of making the project a duplex rather than five units but the applicant said that was not economically feasible. With that being the case, Nanson said he also could not vote for the application. "If this was a five to a 10 acre piece of property I don't think we'd have a problem," he said.
Nanson said the part of town the applicant was looking to build in has a very specific feel and environment. "The surroundings there are small single family homes," he said. "A lot of those residents there have been there for many many years, if not generations."
With five rental properties Nanson said there would be different people coming in on a more regular basis. "There can be no roots there," he said. "You have a lot of families that have a lot of roots right up and down that little area."
The location of the project was a definite focus for Nanson. "Not being out near Route 9 or Route 33, that's one of the older sections, one of the older farmland sections in Howell right there," he said. "That's why I just don't see this fitting there."
Making his final comments before the board voted Chairman Stephen Meier explained his reasons for voting against the proposal. "We're here to only grant relief where relief can be appropriately granted without doing harm to the zone," he said. He called five units on a lot that size a "affront to the zoning."
Meier also addressed the applicant's assertion that a smaller not would not work for financial reasons. "I believe with this that we're being asked to grant relief for economic reasons which we're not allowed to touch," he said.
With that the board voted unanimously against the project.