The Zoning Board of Adjustment Approves Some Applications; Denies Others


The Clifton Zoning Board of Adjustment met on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, for their regularly scheduled meeting. The Board of Adjustment’s (BOA) purpose, according to the Clifton city website, is to “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 and residents of the Clifton community regularly attend the zoning meetings, asking for variances on certain limitations put in place such as maximum fence height, expanding a structure beyond the usual guidelines, or how much of a property’s area can be covered by impervious material.

Two applications previously before the BOA have been continued to the next zoning meeting on June 21st. Both of these applications have been controversial among the board and the Clifton community, such as the 817-825 Clifton Avenue Dunkin’ Donuts expansion. Previously denied in December of 2021 but brought back to the BOA following a court remand, which indicates a higher court found the decision unfair, the applicant and their attorney, Daniel Steinhagen, were originally attempting to remove the existing Mooney’s Auto Repair Garage, to enlarge the building housing the existing Dunkin’ Donuts, to create an additional store, two vestibule entrances to the two stores, and a drive-in facility. However, despite significant changes to their proposal, the BOA continues to be concerned about how the proposed work would affect the already congested traffic and what this would mean for the quality of life for Clifton residents.

Another application that was moved to the June 21st meeting was the request from 522 Valley Estates, which seeks approval to demolish a previously existing building and to construct new townhouses consisting of twenty multifamily dwelling units within three separate buildings on Valley Road. This expansion would require the admittance of multiple variances, including exceeding maximum height rules, surpassing the maximum amount of stories, having fewer than the required number of trees, and many more.

New Hearings: Although the first fence request of the night was approved by the Board, their request was a simple variance to keep their four-foot front yard fence where a four-foot fifty percent open is required, the second applicant was not as lucky. The applicant was seeking a variance for their six-foot fence surrounding the perimeter of the home, which is not permitted by the town and is rarely an exception the BOA makes. The applicant argued that they had their fence built during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that they had no knowledge of the fence requirements due to their contractor not informing them and state-wide shutdowns making it difficult to contact certain offices. The applicant pointed out that despite the fence costing $3,000 to install in 2021, removing the fence would cost them upwards of $10,000 now and this financial burden would not be possible for them to bear. The BOA ultimately denied the variance and suggested converting the top foot of the solid fence to a lattice pattern instead, which is permitted by zoning laws. As fencing issues are a frequent occurrence at zoning board meetings, it is highly recommended that homeowners research the various permits needed and limitations in place before following through with any sort of remodeling or construction. Much of this information can be found online in the City Code.

In brighter news, the Elks Lodge on Clifton Avenue was permitted to keep their metal wheelchair ramp which has been set up for six months and provides ADA accessibility to its visitors. The ramp currently violates the front yard setback requirement by falling short just four feet of the twenty-five-foot demand. However, the entire board agreed that the Clifton Elks Lodge, which has been an established organization since the 1930s and throughout its decades of charity work, according to the lodge’s attorney, Glenn Peterson, has given back a whopping four million dollars to the community, is a staple in Clifton. The only stipulation that accompanied the approval was Commissioner Molner’s suggestion that hedges, or another form of landscaping/decoration, be added to the property to provide some cover for the massive 70-foot-long structure.

The final hearing saw DHF Realty LLC requesting a variance and site plan approval to store 148 motor vehicles off of Route 46. This site would be for storage and repairing purposes only, as it would be in connection to an off-site auto dealership and would not retail or deliver cars at the location. Considering the large amounts of chemicals that would be utilized during the building process, Commissioner Dr. Eramo asked whether or not the applicant would be providing an environmental impact statement as the lot size does qualify for one. The applicant and their attorney stated that they did not plan on creating an environmental impact statement. The party asked for their request to continue on to the June 21st meeting as they would like to organize a testimony from a landscape and structure planner.

Several resolutions were approved, two were denied, and one was dismissed without prejudice. You can read them in the agenda HERE and you can watch the recorded meeting HERE. The next Clifton Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting will be on June 21, 2023, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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