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Future Unknown for Historic Amwell Road Property

Owner of building destroyed by fire uncertain if he'll still pursue construction plans.

The future of an Amwell Road property, where a , has yet to be determined.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” said John Lazorchak, the owner of the property.

Zion Road resident Curtis Westover, 69, has been on March 18.

After buying the property in 2005, Lazorchak, who also owns the adjacent at 695 Amwell Road in the Neshanic section, developed plans to build a 6,700-square-foot office building on the property. Those plans, approved by the planning board, called for the demolition of a vacant building on the site, a home dating back to the 1800s that had fallen into disrepair.

But neighbors opposed to the plans organized a group, the Neshanic Coalition for Historical Preservation, and filed suit against the Planning Board, arguing that the board was not aware the building was in the Neshanic Historic District when it voted on Lazorchak’s application.

In July 2010, Superior Court Judge Peter Buchsbaum ruled for the Neshanic Coalition, stating that Lazorchak’s public notice failed to meet requirements of the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law because it omitted the fact that the building was located in a historic district.

Because it was in a historic district, the demolition had to be approved by the township’s Historic Preservation Commission. When the commission denied the demolition permit, where it has been bogged down by legal issues, including allegations of conflict of interest and whether the Historic Preservation Commission had the authority to deny the demolition permit.

However, the March 18 fire burned the wooden structure, which was demolished the following day. The property has now been cleared, graded and covered with straw.

Westover, who also owns a , is free on bail after being charged last Saturday. Westover, who is friends with Lazorchak, has his with the township and .

Lazorchak, who is the chief of the Neshanic Fire Co., was away on his post-winter vacation in the Caribbean when the building burned.

Lazorchak admitted it was “awkward” for his fellow firefighters from Neshanic and the other fire companies to respond to the scene.

“But everybody had to do what they had to do,” he said.

Lazorchak said he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next or whether he’s going to continue to pursue the construction of the office building. If he goes forward with the plan, he would need to obtain Planning Board approval again and the Historic Preservation Commission would be asked to give a non-binding advisory opinion on the application to the board.

Greg Gillette, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, said at Thursday’s commission meeting that the board would have no comment on the fire or the property because Lazorchak’s proposal could return to the commission if he went to the Planning Board again.

Township resident Curt Carnes told the commission on Thursday that the fire “raises other issues,” such as the restrictions on properties either designated as historic or located in historic districts. He said dilapidated structures like the vacant Amwell Road building may become “targets for arson.”

“I’m interested in preservation,” Carnes said, “but I’m also interested in the rights of private property owners.”

Carnes said the challenge for the Historic Preservation Commission is to find a way to preserve township property without restricting the rights of property owners.

”Where do we go?” he asked, wondering if there was an option for owners to remove the historic designation from their properties.

Curt Carnes March 30, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Mr. Deak, I believe you inadvertently misquoted me, or I misspoke. Regardless, your sentence -- “Carnes said the challenge for the Historic Preservation Commission is to find a way to preserve *township* property without restricting the rights of property owners. Should read -- “Carnes said the challenge for the Historic Preservation Commission is to find a way to preserve *historic* property without restricting the rights of property owners.”
notinhboro March 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Mr. Carnes, everyone has their property rights restricted. Can I rent out my front lawn for a park and ride lot, and make money with my backyard as a tire dump, like the "good old days"? Can Bill Gates use the pages of his Leonardo Da Vinci sketch book for toilet paper? It's his property, right? Why are the residents of the village of Neshanic "busy body neighbors" (not your quote, but summarizing other posts) for participating in the civic process and wishing to shape the reality of their immediate community? Isn't that what Americans do, have always done? You can of course continue in your posts to throw out twenty random politicized ideas to see what sticks. However, life is more complicated than talk radio. I am glad I am not a resident of your community, as this situation is a difficult and destructive mess where nobody wins.
sammy March 30, 2012 at 03:25 PM
"Notinhboro" - Too funny! Welcome to Mr.Carnes's Neighborhood. I wondered how long it would take for someone to notice . No problem - most of the conversation here is sane , normal and not frought with "talk radio" lingo.
Curt Carnes March 30, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Notinboro, sammy, Doesn’t matter to me. If you want a park and ride in your front yard, and tires stored behind your house, have at it. BTW, to the best of my knowledge there are no ordinances against that. You are right, I never said any one in Neshanic is a busy body, and I wouldn’t care if they were, as it is their right to be a busy body if they so want to be. What I have said over and over is their backyards are no more special than anyone’s else’s backyard. Won’t you agree? I have no problem with people using the civil process, after all that is what I’m doing, and it is what America is all about. I do, however, have problems when people think the civil process is about demanding the government takes something from someone, to give it to someone else. That’s not what America is about. Won’t you agree? BTW, I totally support your rights to remain anonymous, but would you mind telling me why you chose to be anonymous? Don’t you think your words might carry more credibility if we all knew who you were?
Mike Deak March 30, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Curt, sorry for taking a shortcut. I thought the verb "preserve" implied in the context that the property was historic. Clarification noted.
notinhboro March 31, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Mr. Carnes, regarding your points: No Hillsborough ordinances against the hypothetical tire dump in the back yard and parking multiple vehicles in the front lawn? Please. If one did this for personal use, let alone as a business venture, I believe any town around us would step in. Probably in most of PA too. No, I do not agree that Neshanic backyards are no more special than anyone elses. They are more special, they are in a registered National Historic District. If the word "special" is too loaded a word, how about "different"? Yosemite is different than a corn field in Iowa, or Los Angeles. Central Park is different than, say, 49th and 10th Ave. That's why there are zoning ordinances, historic districts, industrial corridors, etc. I realize as an ideologue you wish to wipe away complexity and difference and just see the world in black in white. Well, situations in different places at different times require people to figure things out as best they can. Many people, over many years, of many different political stripes have crafted national and local historic preservation policy. That is why Neshanic is special.
notinhboro March 31, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Mr. Carnes, you stated in an earlier post "the vast majority of the United States of America doesn't have zoning laws". This statement is just wrong. From the National Association of Realtors: "Zoning laws are found in virtually every municipality in the United States, affecting land use, lot size, building heights, density, setbacks, and other aspects of property use." Houston is famous for not having zoning, though they have plenty of rules about building. Please name me one municipality, town or village anywhere that doesn't have zoning. Alaska, North Dakota, Tennessee, they all have zoning in any village that might resemble Neshanic. Now, you are correct, there are huge unincorporated rural townships with no zoning. We're talking west Texas, the Great Plains, Appalachia. I love these places and they are the land of the free. You would like the ideological clarity there Mr. Carnes. But you better know what you are doing if you buy land. A twenty acre parcel is a postage stamp, and next door a factory hog farm might open, or a rock crushing plant, or a thousand wind turbines. You will see, hear or smell them for miles. Different sense of property rights for different contexts. No easy answers for us in NJ I'm afraid.
S.G. March 31, 2012 at 11:46 PM
My retired parents bought a house in what turned-out-to-be an incorporated area in TN. Nice brick ranch house on three acres in a small development surrounded by fields. About two years later some construction started in the field behind the house across the street from them...some type of chicken plant. Turns out there was not much zoning protection. Kind of put a crimp in the final twenty of those golden years. Also, not much in the way of building rules and inspections. When septage came bubbling up around the back patio, it turned out that part of the septic system was under there.
Curt Carnes April 01, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I checked Webster’s and Historic, and Special have 2 different meanings. But, if we want to associate words, then I’ll say. Everyone else’s backyards are special too, because they are green! Look, at the EOD I think we all want the same thing, and that is getting government out of our lives and allow us to be the American’s our forefathers meant for us to be. Free, but it is pretty hard to be free when government burdens us down in rules and regulations. We all need to see both sides of government, and understand it is no different than a close call in a baseball game. Supporters of the team that benefits from a close call will think it is great, while supporters of the other team will feel the pain of the call. The idea of government is to run the physical functions of a town, in a neutral manner, not to be making calls that take from some to give to others! BTW, How is it these Historic Houses have, indoor plumbing, eclectic, gas, central heating and air-conditioning systems, telephones. stereo radios, Blue rays, not to mention the 65” High Definition Plasma TVs, mounted above the historic fireplaces, along with satellite receivers mounted on their roofs? I guess that’s all part of being special too? PS. I wonder how many people in an historic house would think their properties were “special,” if the TC passed an ordinance taxing people in an historic house an additional $1,000 a year to continue to be listed as historic?
Curt Carnes April 01, 2012 at 04:15 PM
SG, If your parents wanted to be assured of always looking out over those fields, they should have bought them too. Then they’d have control, and all would be fair. Instead, you seem to think the rightful owners of those fields should have donated their rights to maximize the wealth of their property to your parents, because your parents retired there. I know a retired couple looking for a house. Maybe you’d want to turn your dead over to them. After all they are in their golden years.
Curt Carnes April 01, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Yes, it is a difficult situation, and I can see both sides of it, really I can. However, as I lean more and more to the Libertarian POV, I really think this it isn’t a place for government to stick its nose, and it should be left to the individuals directly impacted to work it out! Many years, while fishing outside of Lincoln Maine, down wind of a paper mill, I mentioned to a fellow fisherman, how bad that paper mill made the place smell. Now that old timer original Lincoln Maine native, kind of looked at me funny, took his cap off, to make a point, looked me straight in the eyes and said these words which I will never forget: “My granddaddy worked at that mill, and it gave him the money to put food on the table for my farther. My farther worked at that mill, and it gave him the money to put food on the table for me, and now I work at that mill and it gives me money to put food on the table for my wife and kids. Now before you go getting any ideas that smell is bad for you, my granddaddy just celebrated his 95th birthday, my daddy is 79, and I plan on living to at least 100! While many people who know me, know it can be hard to shut me up. He did just that, as I was actually lost for words, and he also changed my POV on a whole lot of things. I thank the Lord for the day He put him in my path, for I believe it made a better human being out of me!

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