Board of Adjustment Flexible While Protecting Neighborhood Needs


The Clifton Zoning Board of Adjustment met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, February 15. As per the city website, the Board of Adjustment (BOA) Exercises the power to review and make decisions on appeals relating to interpretation of the Zoning Ordinances (Per NJSA 40:55D-69).” Zoning ordinances dictate how different properties within the city may be used - for residential or commercial buildings, for instance - and put limitations on things like fence height, how much of the property’s area is covered by impervious material, and how tall a structure may be.

Applicants requesting variances come before Chairman Mark Zecchino and the Board and are sworn in before offering their testimony. Most applicants at this meeting were homeowners seeking variances for home improvement projects. Carlos Soler, the first to testify, asked the Board to allow for a five-foot solid fence in his backyard to be continued along the garage side of his house where four feet with 50% open construction are required in order to provide a safer place for his young child to play. This variance was quickly granted by a unanimous vote. The Planning Board recommended at its last meeting that City Council adjust the fence ordinances to permit this type of structure going forward. Doing so would reduce the financial burden on residents who currently have to seek variances for this frequently-approved adjustment and would reduce the number of applicants the BOA needs to consider.

Another homeowner, Frank Jerrfery Hahofer, asked to remove a tree that was lifting the driveway and then to widen the ten-foot driveway to 15 feet, bringing it up to his property line. The requirement is for a five-foot setback from the property line so this variance, which was unanimously approved, eliminated the setback.

A couple of larger projects were heard and testimonies were provided by attorneys, builders, and architects. In the case of Walbri Properties (1 & 9 Walnut Street), the applicant had been before the Board before and presented requested alterations to the original plans.

Walbri is seeking to combine the use of three lots (one of which is located in the City of Passaic) that requires work. Currently, it’s just old pavement and they are looking to construct a flex multi-tenant warehouse building which would improve the aesthetics of the property. Previously, the board had recommended changing the proposed L-shaped building and making it rectangular, which the applicant did. Parking spaces have been moved to the southern property line, away from the residential properties by about 7 ft., and arborvitae and other natural items are being used to buffer the surrounding neighborhood from any headlight glare that trucks at this property might create.

Commissioner Foukas complimented the applicant’s improvements to the site and made the motion to approve. The board unanimously granted the application with the following stipulations: that the enclosed refuse area be finished in the same facade as the building, that they plant 8 ft arborvitae along the property line facing the neighbors, and that the site be used for storage, along with the merging of the Clifton lots.

EMB 561 LLC at 561 Van Houten Avenue, site of the now-closed Milano’s Restaurant, also made a presentation before the BOA. The applicant requested variances to allow the pre-existing non-comformities regarding setbacks and to convert the existing mixed-use building into a multi-family apartment building. The area that was Milano’s would be repurposed into two one-bedroom apartments and the existing second floor would be expanded to allow for two additional two-bedroom apartments where two currently exist.

The applicant presented the plans with the following improvements to the property - the Van Houten entrance would be closed with all ingress and egress on Dick Street. This new entrance would improve the flow of traffic onto Van Houten, the applicant testified. 12 parking spaces would be provided and improvements to the water runoff will be made above and beyond what is required. Landscaping will be provided.

The Planner for the BOA, Nicholas Graviano, recommended putting a fence on the inside of the parking lot and a five-foot landscape buffer on Van Houten so that there is not a fence on the right of way and the applicant agreed to this stipulation. The Neglia Engineering representative recommended removing the existing light pole and instead having building-mounted lighting, to which the applicant again agreed. Graviano also made some aesthetic recommendations regarding window size and shape to improve the symmetry of the facade. The applicant will need to return with revised plans. The applicant will be on the agenda for March 1 if they can get the plans drawn up in time; if not they’ll be heard at the first meeting in April.

The following applications were continued to another date:

  • John Rader (817-825 Clifton Ave) to be continued without a set date
  • 522 Valley Estates LLC (522 Valley Road) will be continued to 3/15/2023
  • 833 Clifton Ave Partners, LLC (833 Clifton Ave) will be continued to 3/01/2023
  • Main foot and Ankle LLC (1610 Main St.) will be continued (at their request) to 3/15/2023

You can watch the full meeting HERE and read the agenda HERE. The BOA meets again on Wednesday, March 1 at 7 pm at City Hall.

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