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Posts Tagged ‘historic preservation in Ocean Grove’

 

 

At the July 9, 2018 Committee Meeting there was a first reading of an ordinance: 18-24.  The Township wants to establish a new position: HPC Administrative Officer.   This bit of news doesn’t pass the smell test regarding what’s best for Ocean Grove and its historic designations.

We already heard about the Township’s plans to rewrite the HPC guidelines and to hire a consultant for that purpose, but we have heard nothing lately as to that topic.  As worrisome as that sounds, the Chairwoman, Deb Osepchuk, has refused to make any public comment after promising Blogfinger that she would allow us an interview on the matter.

Rumor has it that the Township, beholden to developers who hate the HPC, wants to weaken the powers of the Commission. But no one in the know will say anything to us.

Now we hear about this new position, and it sounds like the Township wants more control over the process of Historic Preservation, but instead of showing courage at the meeting last night, the HPC Chair refused to say anything, evidently at the advice of her lawyer.  So what good is the HPC if it won’t stand up for preservation in the Grove?

We believe that every member of the HPC  ought to resign immediately until the future of their Commission be defined publicly including their powers, their guidelines, their credentials,  and the integrity of their functions.

The Township must insure that the best interests of Ocean Grove be front and center when considering the HPC.

And, by the way, where is the Ocean Grove Historical Society regarding matters such as this?  They should be involved in all these historic preservation issues, and if they won’t, then their Board should be fired by the membership.   And of course, the Home Groaners should have been on their feet demanding some transparency regarding this situation.  It’s about time that their board also be replaced.

 

THE ROOFTOP SINGERS:

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Ocean Grove 1878. See any condos or rehab centers there?

Ocean Grove 1878. See any condos or rehab centers there? From a Camp Meeting report that year.

 

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.

In December 2016 the HPC created an uproar complaining that the Township was going to seriously change the historic guidelines which the HPC uses to protect our historic designations.   A new guidelines document was made public by the Township, but it was not annotated for the changes and it  seemed to favor developers who would be enabled to compromise historic structures in town.

The HPC complained to the Township Committee and were promised a new document which would clearly note all the changes.  Deb Osepchuk, the chairperson of the HPC, promised that they would supply Blogfinger with a formal statement of their opinions regarding the new guidelines.  But later she said that their lawyer would not allow it.  Here is a link regarding that denial.

https://blogfinger.net/2016/12/16/hpc-muzzled-no-more-public-statements-to-the-media/

Yesterday we contacted her by email and said, in part, “Deb. I know you can’t make a formal statement, but after the initial fuss which Blogfinger helped publicize where you appealed  to everyone about the dangers of meddling with the guidelines,  I hope you would at least tell our readers if the issue has been resolved or what the status is.”

She responded by saying, “As of this time I have received no official notice from the the Township Committee. I do believe however, that the lines of communication are open and will remain so.”

Deb also said that the HPC would be making a presentation at the HOA meeting on January 28.   She said, “We’ll be talking preservation and the importance of the guidelines.”

We also contacted a Neptune Township official who said that the new guidelines had been tabled and that no “marked up version” was yet available.  We also inquired about the “lines of communication” which the HPC mentioned. We were told that “as of now, there is no public meeting scheduled for discussion of revisions to the guidelines.”

So, in conclusion, after all the fuss and worry about the guidelines, nothing has come of it.  But if there are any backroom discussions, this matter is of great interest to the Ocean Grove public and should not be hidden behind a stone wall.  We are familiar with lack of transparency on the part of the Neptune Township Committee, but the HPC owes it to the public to be open regarding this matter which they, themselves, said was so important.

JULIE ANDREWS:

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37 Atlantic Avenue. 2012 Beersheba Award winner. Blogfinger photo ©  This is what it's all about!

37 Atlantic Avenue. 2012 Beersheba Award winner. Blogfinger photo © This is what it’s all about!

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.

As noted in our recent posts, the Township Committee wants to pass an ordinance to make major changes in the HPC Guidelines. They placed the proposal on the December 12 agenda giving the HPC and others only a few days to consider the matter.

The document is long and detailed, and it was not marked in a way that would readily reveal the changes. At the meeting, the 1st reading was tabled to a later date to allow proper assessment of the document, but a few OG groups did get to review it, and their response was resoundingly negative, saying that the new guidelines would threaten historic preservation in the Grove.

During the public portion of the meeting, some individuals spoke for the allotted 5 minutes. The one voice that really needed to be heard was that of Deborah Osepchuk, the long-time Chairperson of the HPC. She read a prepared personal statement, but she was cut off when her 5 minutes were up.

We thank her for providing Blogfinger with her complete remarks. We cannot print the entire speech, as it is quite long for us, but we will quote most parts of it, skipping only some of the most technical details:

“In the spring of 2015, Randy Bishop announced at a Township Committee meeting that the HPC Guidelines were going to be revised and submitted to the Township Committee by Sept 1, 2015.

“A sub-committee within the HPC was formed, working through the summer and after review by the entire board, submitted our draft of the revised guidelines to the Township Clerk by Sept. 1, 2015.

“This was the last we heard of them. I sent emails, as did our attorney, asking for information and updates on the guidelines. We received no reply.

“Last Friday, Dec.9, 2016, at 3:35 pm,  I received an email stating that the revised guidelines were not the guidelines we had submitted. I respectfully request that ‘prepared by the Historic Preservation Commission’ be removed from the cover page, and the names of those people responsible for this document be listed instead.

“There is much to be concerned about in this draft, but let me first focus on what I feel is the most damaging to the historic district.

The applicability of said design guidelines shall only be applicable to any portion of the structure that fronts on the street. Side and rear facades that do not front on the street shall not be subject to the guidelines.

The Commissioner described one change where “the word ‘avoid’ used in the original draft in regards to inappropriate architectural elements has been replaced with  the word ‘discouraged’  a total of 37 times.

Also the words “historically inappropriate” have been eliminated. The term “where practicable” has taken its place.

She says, “All of this translates into guidelines that regulate and protect nothing.”

In addition Commissioner Osepchuk notes that a number of provisions in the original have been eliminated including the section on “Historic Flare, a unique and rare example of urban planning—- the key reason for our historic designation.”

(Editor’s note: This is where Ms. Osepchuk had to stop speaking at the meeting, but we continue below:)

“Hot tubs, solar panels, satellite dishes, retaining walls, sheds, roof top construction, chain link fencing, auxiliary structures, etc., are no longer restricted unless they are on the ‘regulated frontage’ of the structure. Then they are merely ‘discouraged.’

“Add to all this, the fact that now homeowners will need to have signed and sealed architectural plans in order to make an application. The HPC has never required this of homeowners.

“Why the sweeping changes? What will they accomplish? Who is responsible or them?

‘The objectives of Ocean Grove District Architectural Guidelines are to preserve the historic architectural integrity, craftsmanship, and heritage of the nationally Designated Historic District and encourage architectural solutions which will “Recapture the Spirit of Ocean Grove.’

“The document dated Oct. 2016 does not accomplish this, its stated purpose. Instead it works at destroying the historic district.

“Property values in Ocean Grove continue to rise. People are renovating, building new and making improvements to their homes in increasing numbers. As of today the HPC has reviewed and approved 249 applications.

“What is the attraction of Ocean Grove? It’s certainly not the parking or the fact that we pay high taxes on land that we don’t even own or that we live on lots that in any other part of Neptune would be considered undersized. Our homes need constant maintenance, since most of them are over 100 years old and we live with the constant threat of fire fueled by the town’s density.

“It is because Ocean Grove looks and feels like no place else…for now.”

Also, this matter is on the agenda for the Dec. 14 Planning Board meeting which Blogfinger will attend.

And, On December 13, 2016, the HPC voted to draft a statement speaking out against the guidelines.  Stay tuned.

PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND:

 

 

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By Charles Layton

The Historic Preservation Commission seems to have persuaded the Neptune Planning Board to include stronger protections for Ocean Grove in its rewrite of the Master Plan.

But the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association remains at odds with the Planning Board over its own issues, and it appears that a fight between the two groups may be in the offing.

The newly-included language proposed by the HPC stresses the importance of Ocean Grove’s architectural heritage, its emphasis on single-family homes, and such defining characteristics of the town plan as the flared setback on avenues near the ocean.

The Planning Board has been working for months on a total rewrite of the Master Plan, a document that lays out basic goals and guidelines for land use and zoning.

Last week, the HPC passed a resolution expressing concern that the board’s proposed rewrite did not do enough to protect the Grove’s historic heritage. But at a public meeting on Wednesday night, the board revealed that it had inserted into its draft much of the language suggested by the HPC.

Also on Wednesday, the Historical Society of Ocean Grove weighed in for the first time with a letter to the Planning Board, in which it agreed with the issues raised by the HPC and also with a broader range of concerns raised by the Home Owners Association.

While acceding to most of what the HPC had asked for, the Planning Board made no concessions to the Home Owners. Members of the Home Owners board who were present at the meeting came away unhappy with that, and also with the Planning Board’s refusal to allow comment from members of the public.

“This is nonsense,” Home Owners trustee Fran Paladino told me after it was made clear that no one would be allowed to voice concerns or raise questions. The three-hour meeting was taken up by a lengthy report to the Planning Board by its consultant Jennifer Beahm, covering the details of the entire 207-page draft of the proposed new Master Plan.

In a letter delivered on Friday, a committee of the Home Owners had expressed fears that this new plan, as written, would be bad for Ocean Grove. (For full details, read the Home Owners letter here.)

There was no indication on Wednesday night that the Planning Board was in any mood to accommodate the Home Owners’ concerns. Neither did the Home Owners trustees show any willingness to back off, and it seems likely that the issue will be raised at the group’s next membership meeting, which is on September 24.

One of the Home Owners’ chief concerns is a suggestion in the Planning Board’s draft that the Township create a new Land Use Advisory Committee to make decisions as to whether “minor changes that have been found to be di-minimus [sic] in nature can be approved administratively” rather than going to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The Home Owners committee’s letter said it feared this new bureaucratic layer of authority would “usurp the authority of the existing citizens boards, replacing their judgments with the judgments of various executives of the Township. This would potentially allow for more decisions to be made outside the public’s view, and would be an invitation to more political influence and insider dealing.”

Support for the Home Owners position on this and some other issues appeared to be growing in certain quarters. In its Wednesday letter, the Historical Society made a point of concurring with issues raised by the Home Owners. Gail Shaffer, president of the Historical Society, told me she was especially concerned about the issue of the proposed new advisory committee. Deborah Osepchuk, chairwoman of the HPC, told me she too was concerned about that issue, although she stressed that she was speaking only for herself, not for the HPC, on that matter.

Another major concern of the Home Owners committee is the proposal’s frequent recommendations that various rules on zoning, density limits, the flared setback and other issues important to Ocean Grove be “reviewed,” “redrafted” or “evaluated.” So much “broad language in the Master Plan, urging such sweeping changes, would give present and future administrations too much discretion to make whatever changes they please,” the Home Owners letter said.

The Historical Society’s letter specifically supported the Home Owners on this issue. It spoke of “weakly defined language that urges sweeping changes to the present regulations.”

Osepchuk said she was pleased that the Planning Board had accepted the HPC’s suggestion to put protective language from the old Master Plan into the draft of the new one. “There are marked improvements from what was originally written,” she said, but added that “there is still room for some tweaking.”

One important historical passage from the old Master Plan, which Osepchuk’s commission succeeded in having transplanted into the new one, described Ocean Grove’s physical decline in the 1990s as hotels and rooming houses for summer lodgers gave way to multi-family residences and boarding houses for the indigent. Legal changes since then, prohibiting similar conversions to multi-family residential use, “have limited additional deterioration and facilitated a renaissance of investment in single-family housing, bed and breakfasts and historic hotels,” the restored language says. It continues: “These types of uses are more appropriate to the scale and character of the [historic] district and provide appropriate development that preserves the character of Ocean Grove.” The newly included language also promises “a strong commitment to the protection and preservation of Ocean Grove’s unique town plan, particularly its flared setback, and all properties designated as having architectural and historic significance.”

The HPC considered that language important to protecting Ocean Grove’s status as a National Historic District.

Planning Board Chairman Joseph Shafto said the public would not have a chance to speak before the board until it meets on November 9 for what could be its final consideration of the Master Plan. Between now and November 9, however, anyone who wishes to submit a letter for the board’s consideration may do so, Shafto said.

After the plan is approved, in whatever form, by the Planning Board, the Board and its attorneys would then rewrite the local land use ordinance based on what’s in the new Master Plan. The new ordinance would then be passed into law by the Township Committee.

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