Property Owners Oppose Historic District
The Westwood Historic Commission is considering designating Westwood Avenue and some surrounding properties as a historic district.
A plan to designate Westwood Avenue and surrounding properties as a historic district has drawn criticism from owners of the affected buildings.
Preservation Consultant Gregory Dietrich presented a report about the plan during a meeting of the Westwood Historic Commission Wednesday. Dietrich said the plan would benefit the community by ensuring new developments will match the surrounding area. Historic district property owners can also waive application fees when filing for construction permits, Dietrich said.
Property owners said they were concerned about a review by the commission for work done to the exterior of all buildings in historic districts.
"There's so much bureaucracy out there," Steve Oder, an owner, said. "We don't need more."
Westwood ordinance requires applicants to bring their plans to the commission if proposed work would effect the exterior of a building in a historic district. The commission then makes a recommendation to the borough's planning board. Dietrich described the process as "a dialogue" rather than an approval or denial.
Ken Katz, who owns the Tassini Building, said he was concerned that a difference of opinion on aesthetics could prevent attractive buildings from being made. Katz noted that some iconic structures, such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Eiffel Tower, were considered ugly by some when they were built.
"The French hated the Eiffel Tower," Katz said.
Bruce Meisel, who also owns Westwood Avenue property, said the cost of bringing in tenants or doing work is already high because of applications with the borough. In one case, Meisel said getting approval from the planning board for a new tenant's sign cost about $8,000 in legal and professional fees and about $1,500 in board fees.
Meisel said he believed making a historic district would drive costs higher and drive businesses away from the area.
"They'll be in Ridgewood, they'll be in Englewood," Meisel said. "They'll be anyplace but Westwood."
The commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on the historic district September 12.
Councilman Robert Miller, who is the liason to the commission, said they would hold more hearings if needed.
"Nothing has been predetermined," Miller said.