By Paige Fanneron, News Editor
The neighbors of South Orange are working alongside historic preservation organizations in order to keep one of the oldest houses in the town from being torn down. The farmhouse was built in 1774 and was sold at the end of 2020. The new owner of the property would like to create two new lots, however, due to the property’s peculiar shape, the house would have to be demolished in order for this to work. The house was designated to be assessed for preservation, but due to the pandemic, those plans have since been delayed and the house was sold at that time.
The South Orange neighborhood where the house resides made a petition which, as of January 18, has had 538 signatures. Susan Cathcart, who originally started the petition, told the Essex News Daily that the planning board cannot legally deny the request of the house to be demolished if there is no official historical title. However, on February 1, the planning board committee granted a lot line adjustment which would allow the new developer to demolish the house and build their two new properties.
There is still hope for this house to be saved. Bill Maclntosh has proposed a new idea that should benefit both parties. Maclntosh said that instead of demolishing the home and only creating two new lots, that the developer could instead apply for a third lot. This would allow for the owner to still develop two new lots but also allow the neighbors to keep their historic landmark.
The South Orange Preservation Commission had drafted a resolution and requested that the South Orange Board of Trustees use MacIntosh’s idea in order to give the house a historic designation. However, township officials have said that in doing so, it could put the town into legal jeopardy. Regardless, there appears to be hope for a compromise between the neighbors and owner.
Designed By Jared Garelick