Man Accused of Arson Tried to Sue Zoning Board
Curtis Westover's lawsuit dismissed in February; barn on his property burned in 2005.
The 69-year-old Zion Road resident accused of setting fire to a historic Amwell Road home last weekend had filed suit against the Hillsborough Zoning Board in November.
Curtis Westover's suit, dismissed in February, charged the board with acting arbitrarily in ruling that it had no jurisdiction on Westover's application for a subdivision on his Zion Road property, the home of B&W Nursery, filed in June 2011.
In August 2005, a 40-foot by 40-foot pole barn burned on Westover's property. Smoke from that blaze, which was not deemed suspicious, could be seen as far away as the Somerville Circle, according to published reports. Officials said at the time said that a live power line had fallen on the building.
In June 2011, Westover applied for a subdivision of his 8-acre property in the township's mountain zone. One lot would contain an existing house while the other, a flag lot, would house a nursery, landscaping business and a lawn mower and small engine repair shop, according to the lawsuit filed in the Civil Division of Superior Court in Somerville.
In August, township planner Robert Ringelheim wrote Westover that the zoning board had no jurisdiction in the case because of a deed restriction on the property, the suit said. Ringelheim said that was the opinion of the board attorney, Mark Anderson.
In 2001, Westover had been granted a subdivision of a 14-acre parcel with the condition that the land be used for agricultural use.
The zoning board agreed in September 2011 with Anderson's opinion and decided that it had no jurisdiction over the application.
In his lawsuit, Westover contended that he did not "recall" agreeing to the planning board stipulation in 2001 that a deed restriction be placed on the property. He also argued in the suit that a nursery and small machine shop had been operating on the site since 1981.
In court papers, Anderson defended the board, saying it did not have jurisdiction in the case.
Both sides agreed to the dismissal of the suit in February.
Westover is being held in the Somerset County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail after being charged Saturday with second-degree aggravated arson in the fire that destroyed the building owned by John Lazorchak, current chief of the Neshanic Volunteer Fire Co.
The vacant building itself was the subject of litigation and controversy.
Lazorchak, who owns the building and the adjacent JML Landscaping, had been trying to demolish the structure and build a 6,700-square feet office building.
Lazorchak and his attorney, Michelle Lamar, have not returned messages for comment.