From the Herald News:
Some residents say large homes on small lots are eyesores that can ruin the character of a neighborhood.
In an effort to prevent more outsized homes from being built, the Planning Board is recommending that the City Council restrict home size by changing zoning laws. The board wants to reduce the maximum height and area of single-family homes and restrict the number of condominiums per acre.
It is beginning with the city’s master plan, a document that each of the state’s 566 municipalities must create and bring up-to-date every six years. The board plans to have a new one finalized next month.
The move comes as several North Jersey municipalities try to crack down on huge homes.
Currently in Clifton, single-family homes can cover between 25 and 30 percent of their lots — depending on the zoning category — while their height can reach 30 feet, and a developer can build up to 15 units per acre.
Under proposed revisions to the master plan, maximum lot coverage of single-family homes would be 22 to 27 percent, said Dennis Kirwan, the city planner. The highest point of a house would be used to calculate the height — which would remain at 30 feet — instead of using the midpoint between the bottom and top of the roof, as is now done. Developers would only be allowed to build eight units per acre, Kirwan said.
“I think that’s a great idea,” said resident Jeff Stephens, who lives in a cul-de-sac of what he describes as modest Cape Cod homes in the Athenia section.
But Patrick O’Keefe, spokesman for the New Jersey Builders Association, cautioned that limiting home size would force property values down.
“It would just cause the parcel to be less valuable,” he said.
Across North Jersey, municipalities have ramped up efforts over the past five years to restrict the size of residential homes, said Jill Hartmann, the city’s Mahwah-based planning consultant, who is helping to revise the city’s master plan.
The goal is to prevent the eyesore of huge homes built next to smaller ones, she said.
“You have a small house next to a large house – it puts everything out of proportion,” she said. With the rising cost of new homes, people are adding to existing homes rather than buying new ones, she added.
“It really coincides with the absolute blowout of the cost of housing in North Jersey,” Hartmann said.
During the meeting, officials cited the area west of Grove Street between Van Houten Avenue and Route 3, home to some of the city’s largest residential parcels, as particularly vulnerable, he said.
“A lot of potential large-scale growth is still able to take place within the city,” Kirwan said.
An alarm bell went off recently for Kirwan when a resident planning to sell a home said he’d based the property value on the potential for eight homes to be built on the lot, he said.