Homeowners – who expressed concern that a proposed zoning ordinance would prevent them from expanding their homes to accommodate their growing families – can breathe a sigh of relief.
Following the recommendation of the Highland Park Planning Board, the Highland Park Borough Council members at its meeting on August 11, 2015, unanimously rejected a suggested zoning change that would have limited new construction on residential properties based on the ratio of floor area to the property size. The Planning Board on July 9 voted against the measure following strong opposition from residents.
That opposition continued at the council meeting, when a few handful of residents appeared before the council and voiced their concern that such an ordinance would serve to pressure large families with a stake in the community to leave.
“I don’t know if we’re looking at becoming a town of developed buildings with renters, but we’re putting ourselves on that path,” said David Filer of Central Avenue. “What are we trying to accomplish?”
Ordinances similar to the one rejected by the council and the planning board are planning tools used to achieve certain environmental and aesthetic goals. The floor area ratio proposed would have made it much harder to construct so-called McMansions, which crowd out their side yards and fail to fit into the neighborhood’s character and appearance.
There is also an environmental issue. By increasing the percentage of impervious surface on the lot, the neighborhood becomes more susceptible flooding caused by runoff during storms.
The Highland Park proposed ordinance also was intended to simplify local land-use law and to reduce the number of requests for variances that come before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.