Breaker Billiards Catches a Break with Zoning Board

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The Clifton Zoning Board of Adjustment met on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, for their regularly scheduled meeting. The Board of Adjustment’s (BOA) purpose, according to the Clifton city website, is that it “Exercises the power to review and make decisions on appeals relating to interpretation of the Zoning Ordinances (Per NJSA 40:55D-69).

Zoning boards are quasi-judicial bodies that review and decide cases in which a relaxation of zoning ordinances is involved. 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. The City of Clifton Office of City Planning is responsible for all Planning Board Applications and Zoning Board Applications as it pertains to planning in the City of Clifton, so they work closely with the BOA in reviewing applications. For more, please see HERE. Chapter 315 of the Township Code includes all land use and zoning information.

The BOA considers the facts involved in every application, the zoning ordinances, and also the City of Clifton Master Plan to help guide their decisions on what development is appropriate for Clifton.  The agenda for the meeting can be found HERE.

The first case before the BOA was Vidal Rodriguez of 56 Myrtle Avenue, who was looking to convert a single-family home into two individual homes on the same lot, using the rear yard and splitting the existing driveway and garage to give each of the houses their own driveway and parking. Chairman Zecchino stated that while the RB1 zone allows for two-family homes, the lot size must be the right size to support two homes. Commissioner George Foukas stated that the BOA has rejected many similar applications where the lots simply are not large enough to support a two-family home. The BOA unanimously rejected the application.

The next application of Mayra Munoz and Brad Perna of 7 Clifton Terrace was also rejected. The applicants proposed to convert their existing single-family to a two-family home, to be able to care for Munoz’s aging parents. The BOA was sympathetic to the struggles of a young family looking to both start their life together and also care for their loved ones, but because the lot is too small, they could not approve the application, as the variance goes with the property. So once a variance is approved, that house would remain a two-family even if sold.

Asher and Aliza Witty attended the BOA meeting with their architect/planner William J. Martin. Their application proposed to expand the existing one-story home at 20 Parson Road to include a second floor as well as a rear addition and front porch. This would make their home a 5 bedroom, 3 bath center colonial. They also proposed making their basement into two offices and a playroom, where normally only one open recreation room is permitted. Neighbors raised concerns that the houses on the street are getting too large, changing the character of the neighborhood and blocking the sun. In discussions with the BOA, the Wittys decided to resubmit plans that would include a smaller porch (which would be more in line with the other homes on the street) and also scrap the two offices.

The Hillsberg application for the variance for 54 Witherspoon Rd was granted as the BOA felt that this was de minimis. A housefire had destroyed the applicants's home and they will be rebuilding the home with an addition that would require just an additional 5.43 feet from the southern property line

The BOA then moved to two more complicated applications.

Peter Mastriano of Madeline Ave Investments LLC appeared before the BOA. The applicant received a use variance on September 20, 2023 (see HERE) to convert an existing mixed-use building at 125 Madeline Ave to four residential apartments where two apartments were permitted. They sought site plan approval and a variance for the number of parking spots required. They had initially proposed five parking spots (instead of the required eight), but Neglia Engineering Associates had proposed that they provide four parking spots (one for each apartment), with one spot being ADA van accessible. Mr. Akin, a neighbor, appeared at the meeting to raise concerns about the tenants of the apartment building trespassing on his property. The applicant explained that fencing would ensure that the tenants would not do that. The BOA granted the application to allow the variance for the four parking spots and the fencing.

The final application of the night was by Call The Ball Billiards, Inc., proposing a minor expansion of its existing premises at 1142 Route 46 to add a kitchen and a bar area to provide food and beverage options for its patrons. Breaker Billiards has been in Clifton since May 1, 1991 and currently operates as a billiards facility with 16 billiards tables and a space for arcade machines and a ping pong table. The facility has 24 parking spots and the regulations require 78, but this has not posed a problem. The applicant explained that they hope to retain more customers by offering drinks and American pub food. To that end, they took over the space next door for use as a kitchen. The applicant explained that they do not expect an increase in traffic - customers who rent a table will not leave to go eat elsewhere or have food delivered. The BOA asked how alcohol service would work and requested that the garbage collection containers be enclosed with masonry, especially as they will now be dealing with more food waste. The motion to approve was passed unanimously.

The resolutions on the agenda were passed, and the meeting adjourned.

The BOA holds their meetings on the first and third Wednesday of every month at 7 pm at the Municipal Court. For more please see HERE. The members of the BOA are listed HERE. Records from the meeting can be obtained from Clifton City Hall, and the meeting was also recorded for later viewing HERE.



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