Town council nixes zoning change

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    WEST MILFORD—One of West Milford's best kept secrets was saved last week from potentially damaging development. The treasured beauty spot within the area known as "Hewitt Triangle" had been the subject of a request to have its zoning changed to allow the building of residential properties adjacent to it. West Milford council unanimously rejected the application at their meeting on Feb. 10. Zanado Enterprises applied in June 2004 to have the parcel of land contained within Union Valley Road, White Road and Warwick Tpk. changed from Community Commercial to R-4 (Single Family Residential). The applicant, Bob Coyman, had hoped to build two homes on the land on the basis that the terrain made it unsuitable for commercial purposes. Several commercial properties already exist along the sides of the triangle. Elaine Duffy lives on Warwick Tpk. alongside two other properties owned by her sons. Their property borders the land proposed for development and Duffy has fought tooth and nail to prevent it and spoke to the council prior to their deliberations. Duffy said "I am here to ask you not to adopt the ordinance that will change the zone for Hewitt Triangle. It's no secret I have been making this request since June 2004." Duffy also raised the question of whether this request was in fact "spot zoning". Spot zoning is when a small area of land is singled out and placed in a different zone from that of neighboring property and is illegal in the area. The Highlands Act also impacts new development in town and could have prevented any building on the land even if the rezoning was permitted. Duffy completed her presentation to the council saying "As far as this little parcel of God's country, please whisper words of wisdom, let it be." In an interoffice memorandum of July 8, 2004 to the Planning Department the Environmental Commission advised the zone change be blocked. The memo said "The Commission noted that there were severe environmental concerns with this property and because of that zone change may not be in the best interest of the Township at this time." The Planning Board rejected the application in August 2004 but passed it to the council to reach a conclusion. Given the overwhelming public response to discard the ordinance, and the advice of both the Planning Department and the Environmental Commission, it is curious that the request remained alive. Council member James Warden asked at the meeting without response "I would like to know who the owner of this property is now." Warden also asked "I'd like to know why the owner went to the trouble and expense to try and get this changed. I wonder what the motive would be to do this." The heart of the property lies hidden from the three roads, but once into it, a virtual oasis appears. Much of the land has been left unattended for many years resulting in overgrown greenery and fallen trees blocking the path alongside the flow of the water. The potential for development in the land is not lost on Duffy though who said "This place is ideal for a small park if it was restored."