Posts Tagged ‘Hans Kretschman’

This is a rendering of two homes developer Hans Kretschman proposes on the Manchester Inn site. He says they'll replicate earlier structures predating the Manchester.

By Charles Layton

On Wednesday night the Neptune Zoning Board approved, with only two small changes, Hans Kretschman’s proposal to build two new single-family homes where the Manchester Inn once stood on Ocean Pathway.

Kretschman’s project had been the object of considerable controversy, and a stream of Ocean Grovers came to the microphone to voice their opposition. Nevertheless, the Board members embraced the ambitious plan, which proposes to copy two turn-of-the-century buildings that existed on the site before they were subsumed, in the 1920s, into the larger building that became the Manchester.

The new buildings are to be built on two of three lots that comprised the Manchester — 25 Ocean Pathway and 27 Ocean Pathway. Kretschman also owns the third lot, which faces Bath Avenue, but he has not yet revealed his plans for that.

He went before the board seeking variances to three of Neptune’s zoning rules that apply to the area — a 35-foot limitation on height, a rule limiting single-family homes to two and a half stories, and a rule regarding Ocean Grove’s famous “flared setback” in the first two blocks of Ocean Pathway. At the start of the meeting Kretschman’s attorney, Jennifer Krimko, agreed to lower the height of one of the buildings by a foot, to bring it within the 35-foot limit. She also made a slight concession on the flared setback by agreeing to pull the porch of one of the buildings out of the setback area. But the front stairs of both buildings will continue to protrude into the setback area — one by 1.81 feet and the other by 3.65 feet, according to Kretschman’s architect, Joseph Walker.

The board approved the remaining variances, allowing the encroachment of the stairs, allowing the houses to have three and a half stories, and allowing the house at 25 Ocean Pathway to exceed the height limit by 3 feet and 4 inches.

Kretschman’s witnesses, including two architects and a professional planner, had testified that the reconstruction of the two original buildings would be extraordinarily precise, based on extensive photographic and physical evidence. They argued that the benefits of such a faithful replication far outweighed any detriments due to the departures from the zoning rules; those departures were necessary, they said, for the sake of historical fidelity.

Numerous large photographs of the proposed homes were displayed about the room during the hearing. Kretschman, who obviously takes pride in the quality and beauty of these proposed creations, told me he could not understand why members of the public had been so negative in their reactions.

But after the testimony of Kretschman’s experts, when the floor was opened to public comments, the great preponderance of expressed opinion remained critical.

The fact that the Manchester and five homes surrounding it had been destroyed in a tremendous fire last year lent to the discussion a special poignancy. Martha Derrico told the board that she had “lost everything” in last year’s fire, which destroyed her house at 30 Bath Avenue. She said she had observed all the zoning requirements in rebuilding her home, and although Kretschman’s proposed homes were “very lovely…I just don’t understand why they can’t be cut down to fit the zoning requirements.”

Deb Marini, who also lost her home at 23 Ocean Pathway to the fire, lamented the fact that when she and her husband wanted to rebuild to three stories the Zoning Board turned them down. “My issue I guess is more with consistency,” she said. “We lost our home twice. We lost it once to the fire. We lost it again to this board.”

Several residents decried what they considered to be a trend toward more and more massive structures on Ocean Pathway and elsewhere in the Grove.

However, when it came time for board members to vote, the mood changed completely. Board member James Gilligan said, “I can’t see any way that this application could be turned down.” The board’s chairwoman, Robin Price, said, “I think this will be an added benefit to the street scape.” Joe Sears said Kretschman’s plans were “a great improvement” over the Manchester. “This is so lovely,” he said.

The board approved the plan by a vote of seven to one, Barbara Burns being the lone dissenter.

The Manchester Inn (above) evolved from two older buildings. Now that the Manchester is gone, the plan is to copy, as nearly as possible, those two buildings.

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By Charles Layton

This evening (Wednesday, August 3), Neptune’s Zoning Board of Adjustment will hear further testimony on a builder’s proposal to encroach on Ocean Grove’s famous “flared setback” along Ocean Pathway. So far, the board has only heard one side of this argument – the builder’s side. Given the issue’s importance, the board should hear fuller evidence and alternative points of view.

The flared setback was designed by Ocean Grove’s founders. Under their plan, each house along Ocean Pathway and other east-to-west streets was set back in lines that widen toward the ocean from Central Avenue to Ocean Avenue. The purpose was to provide ocean views and sea breezes for homes up to two blocks inland along these avenues. It is a good neighbor policy, preventing one home owner from depriving others of some of the benefits of seaside living. On a Google satellite photo (for which, click here and type in “ocean grove”) one can see the pattern clearly along Main, Heck, Embury and other avenues, but especially along Ocean Pathway.

“Ocean Grove appears to be the earliest user of this device. Taken within the context of urban planning, Ocean Grove is significant not only on a national scale, but on a world scale as well.” Those words are from Ocean Grove’s nomination form submitted to the Department of the Interior when the town was seeking to become a National Historic District. The flared setback was one of the primary justifications for our national historic status.

The Historic Preservation Commission’s guidelines, as expressed in a Township ordinance, say this: “The ‘flare’ must be preserved. Where applicable, proposed improvements shall NOT infringe upon the delineated ‘Flare’ and its historic importance to the Historic District of Ocean Grove.” (The boldface and underline are part of the document, emphasizing the point.)

The setback was observed and enforced rather strictly during Ocean Grove’s so-called period of historical significance – from its founding in 1869 to about 1910. Some time after that, and into the 1970s, some people disregarded the rules and put porches, stairways and additions out into the flare. After 1975, however, when the Grove became a historic district, the flared setback began to be enforced more seriously for new buildings and additions. Indeed, many argue that failure to protect this setback could at some point endanger the town’s national historic designation.

Which brings us to the issue now before the Zoning Board. Local builder Hans Kretschman is proposing to build two houses on the lots where the Manchester Inn stood before its destruction in last year’s fire. Kretschman is seeking a variance to the setback rule on the grounds that these houses will replicate two buildings that had stood on those lots prior to 1910. He argues that the historic buildings he intends to replicate encroached into the flared setback, so his buildings should be allowed to do that also.  (Go here to read our previous article, containing a fuller account of his argument.)

The claim that those original buildings violated the setback is questionable, however. In fact, according to Sanborn Maps from the 1905-1910 period, the structures that stood on the Manchester site appear to have observed the flared setback rule. Mr. Kretschman’s attorney has not submitted those maps into evidence, nor have they been mentioned in testimony, although they are considered the most authoritative record of the building footprints of the time. (They were originally created for assessing fire insurance liability – serious business.)

Later, apparently in the 1920s, the single building that replaced and subsumed the two earlier ones – and which became the modern Manchester Inn – did have a porch that encroached into the setback. But that came after, not during, the period of  historical significance. It is therefore hard to see how one could justify having a new building encroach into the setback by arguing that doing so would respect the site’s historical integrity.

At best, the history of the Manchester property is unclear based on evidence submitted to the Zoning Board thus far. So, rather than making a decision and setting a precedent based on one side of an argument, one would hope that the board would take its time and investigate all available evidence, including the Sanborn maps. On a matter of such importance – not just to Kretschman but to the whole town – it would be foolish to rush.


NOTE: The above-referenced meeting was held on Wednesday evening. For a report on the outcome, click here.

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