From the Star Ledger:
New Jersey is bloated with hundreds of little fiefdoms.
Local governments allow red tape to rule the day, and they forget they’re supposed to serve their constituents.
They display no common sense.
Nancy Wells, 57, of Hasbrouck Heights has been drowning in deep bureaucracy for nearly two years.
Her story is simple. She’s been the owner of a two-family home in the 1.5-square-mile, 12,000 resident borough since 1996, when she bought the property with her then-husband. All she wants to do is sell her two-family home as the two-family home it’s been since it was built in 1949.
But the borough won’t let her, saying she lacks the necessary documents to prove her home is a two-family residence.
Why? There was a fire at the municipal building in 1999, and town officials told Wells decades of building permits were destroyed, she said. Among them, she noted, were documents that would prove the home was a two-family and grandfathered in when the area was rezoned for one-families.
And even though the home has always had two entrances, two kitchens, two electric meters, two gas meters and that according to county tax rolls, the home has always been a two-family home and has always been taxed as a two-family home, the zoning board won’t listen to reason.
Or common sense.
Or the 13 long-time local residents who always knew the home as a two-family and put in writing that they’re just fine if it remains a two-family.
“I made an investment in a two-family so I’d like to get my two-family investment back,” Wells said. “Selling as a one-family downgrades the value of the house.”
It all started when Wells put her home on the market in April 2015.
Wells’ real estate agent went to borough hall and spoke to Dorothy Bernice of the borough’s planning board to confirm the property was a two-family.
Bernice looked in a book and confirmed to the real estate agent it was a non-conforming two-family, according to an affidavit later filed with the Superior Court in Bergen County as part of Wells’ lawsuit against the borough. Even though the street later became a single family zone, older two-families were grandfathered in, the real estate agent said she was told.
So the house went on the market, and it sold for the full price that same day.
But while the sale was in attorney review, according to the affidavit, the real estate agent got a call from Bernice’s boss, Nicholas Melfi, who serves as the borough’s construction code and zoning enforcement officer.
He said Wells’ home was not a two-family and that Bernice made a mistake.