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UPDATED: Amwell Road Fire Called 'Suspicious'

Blaze guts structure whose owner has been trying to demolish to build an office building.

A Sunday morning fire that gutted a historic Amwell Road home whose owner—a Hillsborough fire chief—has been trying for years to demolish to build an office building is being treated as "suspicious," Hillsborough's chief fire marshal said.

"This fire is currently under investigation and considered suspicious at this time," Chief Fire Marshal Chris Weniger said.

Weniger referred all further questions to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, which is handling the investigation.

Capt. Jack Bennett, a spokesman for Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano, said the investigation is ongoing and could not immediately release further details Sunday afternoon.

Bennett said Monday the investigation remained ongoing.

Hillsborough Mayor Carl Suraci said he could not provide many details, but believed the home was destroyed.

“From what I was told, the structure is not going to be able to be salvageable," Suraci said.

Fire companies from Hillsborough, Neshanic and Flagtown responded to the blaze, which broke out at about 7 a.m. Amwell Road between East Mountain and River roads was closed for hours while firefighters extinguished the blaze. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

The single-family residence was built in the 1800s and has been vacant for nearly a decade, neighbors said.

John Lazorchak, who owns the home and the adjacent has been trying to demolish the structure and build a 6,700-square-foot office building.

However, the Historic Preservation Commission has denied the request, which Lazorchak has appealed.

Lazorchak's appeal was r.

Lazorchak, who is the chief of the Neshanic Fire Co., could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.

A voicemail and email for Lazorchak's attorney, Michelle Lamar, were also not returned Sunday.

Patch will continue to update this story.

Gerard Longo and Mike Dennis contributed to this report.

Dwight March 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Flagtown and Neshanic are both part of Hillsborough township, and located equidistant from where the fire took place. Granted I agree they had about three fire trucks more than they actually used, however I assume it's a case of "better safe than sorry" mentality. I live right across the street and got some video of the fire as it was being extinguished: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbeT4svpSWw
Curt Carnes March 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Brandon No offence, and I seriously mean no offence, but your post is just another example of the knee jerk reactions so many New Jeresyings are doing now-a-days, because of radio stations like NJ101.5 and I have to say, our very own Governor. At the end of the day Brandon, you can’t believe anything these radio station say or for that matter the Governor. Look, both of them have to put their own best interests first. NJ 101.5,is a “Hot Button” Radio Station that depends on controversy for ratings and sponsors, that is to say -- money to keep it open and pay the DJs. The Governor, well of course he has strong political desires, and has been propelled by complaining about blotted this and that’s . See my point? Your “home” fire company is Hillsborough Number 2, AKA Station 37, and is located near the Burger King on Rt 206. There is always someone there on Thursday night. Feel free to stop in and look around. You might even want to consider joining, then you’ll understand when people like Jim Gerhardt sound off about fire departments, just how full of crap they are! An old wise adage says: Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes! Good advice for all!
S.G. March 19, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Neshanic Volunteer Fire Company is located in Neshanic Station in neighboring Branchburg Township, but their service area covers part of Hillsborough. Hillsborough Volunteer Fire Company #1 (Flagtown Fire/Rescue) is probably the primary responding company for that area.
Steve March 19, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Dwight, thanks for sharing the video. I think it shows that having 3 Hillsborough volunteer fire houses respond was not over kill. When it comes to life and property I rather caution on the side of having extra response the lack of response.
S.G. March 19, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Brandon, I justed looked at the YouTube Video posted below by Dwight, This was not a minor fire.
jerseyjoed March 19, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Anyone who has a problem with the great VOLUNTEER work those firefighters do is just looking to make waves. Thank God for those people and the good work they do... So, now the building is gone and we can build an office building on the site. Let's make it about 50 stories. HAVE THE PEOPLE WHO ZONE THIS TOWN GONE MAD. An office building THERE!!!! WHY???
Brandon Knox March 19, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Curt, I should take your advice. I am not a native Jerseyan but love living here. I just think that the cost of living (especially taxes) has gotten out of control. However, I am eating crow after seeing the video of the fire and reading many of the follow-up posts and will be more careful about throwing stones at the people who are doing the heavy lifting. And just to clear things up, I detest talk radio, think Christie is a blowhard, and am not looking to make any waves. I'm glad no one was hurt today.
Interested Party March 19, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Brandon - I think it's pretty great that you approached the comments to this story with an open mind. It's great to see respectful dialogue with different opinions in a news story's comment section for a change!
Susan Bond March 19, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Hmmm... seems a rather convenient fire... doesn't it? Lazorchak... you have some "splainin" to do. I don't think the house was salvagrable anyway... but we sure don't need office space in that already cramped area. Hey, Township committee... how about asking HIM to give up his land for "open space"?
Think About It March 19, 2012 at 04:41 AM
It's my understanding that this was the very first house ever built in the the township way back when, so such a shame to see it come to this. I'm glad nobody was hurt and I think the fire companies did an excellent job. However. when the fire chief owns a home that has been litigating for years trying to get the house destroyed to no avail, it does make you wonder what happened here? In some of the pictures hte landscaping truck appears to be parked so close to the building you can't even get the driver side door opened-why was the truck parked there instead of the landscaping business which he also owned, and wouldn't they be worried about the truck blowing up from the heat and flames from the fire?
Curt Carnes March 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Hey Susan -- How about the Township Committee ask you to give up a large portion of your wealth for "open space?"
Curt Carnes March 19, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Brandon, Thanks for “manning up!” The fire company could use a guy like you. Stop by!
Laura Madsen March 19, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Good job taking the video, Dwight. Thanks for posting the link to it.
Curt Carnes March 19, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Why NOT? Like it or not Amwell road has become a very busy thoroughfare, all one needs do is drive it during rush hour to see that. Frankly, I see no real problem with an office building there, but I do see one if it is 50 stories high, as you mentioned. I think a nice medical arts building would do very well in that location, and with gas soon to be hitting $5.00 a gallon, I’m sure some of the fine folks from western Hillsborough, would be more than happy not to make the ride all the way into town to visit a doctor, pediatrician, dentist or whatever. You know JBL’s building used to be a busy lawnmower shop, there was once a hair solon across the street (maybe that’s still there) and of course there’s that auto body place, and a playhouse there too! So seriously, what is your problem with a medical arts building (or whatever) there, and if not there where? Along the already saturated 206 corridor, so we can watch another business fail?
Diane Hamilton March 19, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Seems like some people want to point a guilty finger at the owner before any facts have been presented, accusing Mr. Lazorcheck seems premature to me I thought in this country we were innocent until proven guilty. Do any of you know the facts on the litigation or Mr. Lazorchek before making unsubstantiated innuendoes? Looking in from the
Diane Hamilton March 19, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Looking in from the outside I think there are some folks who resent Mr. Lazorchek's success and perhaps are desperate to stop progress. There are revengeful people who would like to see Mr. Lazorchek stopped in his tracks, perhaps they have found a way to do that by making the public lean towards a pointing finger with no facts. Once again the media is showing bias thru innuendo, maybe it is time for patience and waiting until the facts are out and then see if the truth is presented publicly or left the public to believe false accusations. I do not have a dog in this fight but I can express my opinion as everyone else can but with an open mind and not with false accusations!!!
Diane Hamilton March 19, 2012 at 12:57 PM
And by the way Ms Bond, perhaps you should set an example by giving up some of your land first, perhaps others will follow. So easy to tell others to give up things but always making yourself an exception, set an example and practice what you preach.
Curt Carnes March 19, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Diane, great points couldn’t agree with you more. Also, Mr. Lazorchak. has no more "splainin" to do to anyone, anymore than Ms. Bond needs "splainin" to anyone why she drives her car around in such a reckless manner? I wonder if Ms. Bond makes her second home in Zuccotti Park?
S.G. March 19, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Regarding the construction of an office building at this site, there were concerns raised other than the demolition of a Neshanic Historic District structure. Also questioned was traffic, including backups from the three-way stop through that area and visibility pulling from behind the building. I believe there was also some discussion about a stream buffer zone and the rear parking lot.
Steve March 19, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Prior patch articles state that the proposed office building was to be 6,700-square-foot. That is not all that huge, but without seeing the plans and the site plot I can't say how it would fit in that area. It could be 2 stories, maybe 3, but not 50 ;-) I think there are some homes in hillsborough approaching 6,700-square-foot on a lot less then 1 acer. Just ruff guessing the Applebee's may be around that size for one floor. I am sure the ratables on the new proposed building would bring in more taxes revenue then the older abandon building was.
John Giarrusso Jr March 19, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Where's the video link???
Diane Hamilton March 19, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Thanks Curt for supporting my remarks Mr. Lazorchek does not owe her any "splaining" I thought that's what the tax payers pay the prosecutors office for. As always there will be an investigation and the facts will be known to the proper authorities. Finger pointing without facts accomplish nothing, sounds like she just came from Zucotti Park.. The link to the video is in the comment made by Dwight above.
S.G. March 19, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Ms. Bond did not say that the building owner owed her any explanation and I am sure that he has already been interviewed by any authorities doing a fire investigation...as any of us would if a structure we owned burned. Ms. Hamilton, I have reread the article and don't see any bias through inuendo. Please clarify. I also cannot understand your Zuccotti Park reference. Thanks. Mr. C's criticism of another commentor's driving...???
danielle March 19, 2012 at 08:14 PM
thank god there was no wind that day, you would be glad for three companies ,if it were your home and your family was inside .. thank god for those wonderful volunteers, instead of being such a critic get out and do something for your town
Curt Carnes March 19, 2012 at 08:16 PM
S.G. My Criticism was in fun. Just figured if Ms. Bond wants to point the “arson” finger at someone, I might point the Reckless Driver finger at her. See how easy that is? To heck with Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat. Otherwise know as the presumption of innocence, which has been around since the day's of the Romans! Actually, I don’t know either of the two parties, just trying to make a point. You know, if you drive you must have broken some law. If you own a house in the historic district and it burns down you must have set the fire. As to Zuccotti Park, You must be kidding? Zuccotti park, the home of the most dangerous movement to ever hatch in America. The Occupy Wall Streeters. not only are they down right jealous of those (except Steve Jobs) who have worked their butts off, and made well for themselves, they want our government to take from those who they define as “wealthy” and give it to them as they define who is worthy of taking it! Kind of like Ms. Bond, thinking people should give up their land, except of course hers!
Curt Carnes March 19, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I did little research and I have discovered why Ms Bond feels the way she does. Back on July 26, 2011, Ms. Bond stated in The Hillsborough Patch the following: “Friends of mine had been working and putting money away for DECADES to buy a large parcel of land that could be divided between themselves and their 3 children. An opportunity arose that was perfect... so they set the wheels in motion. The committee insisted that in order to obtain a variance to knock down the existing house, they were to "give" 10 out of 40 acres to the township for "open space". The 10 was to include the pond on the property. Since they would no longer have 40 acres... and the piece of land was off-road (zoning is 10 acres off-road) the parcel could not be divided between the couple and their 3 children. Since the committee was being unreasonable... my friends were out of luck. Here is the link http://hillsborough.patch.com/articles/demolition-hearing-for-historic-building-delayed-to-fall Now I understand her statement, about her telling the TC to tell Mr. Mr. Lazorchek, to give up his land for Open Space. However, it leaves me with a few questions that I think Ms. Bond can answer by simply supplying the date of the committee meeting when this alleged discussion took place. From there I’ll be more than happy to research the minutes, (they are on-line you know) which I’m sure will answer my questions
jerseyjoed March 20, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Well Curt, why don't we start with a nice big EXXON station there instead, Then the fine folks of western Hillsborough wouldn't have to drive so far to gas up go to the Walmart they're going to build where the golf course is (was). And I;m sure the amusement park to be built on the old Sourland preserve will bring in lots of dough for the town. No doubt that at one time the 206 corridor wasn't congested at all. It may even have looked something like that stretch of Amwell Road at one time... guess what happened.
mike murray March 20, 2012 at 09:58 PM
yea well i live 2 houses down from the fire our built in 1751 this is an historic area and is part of the reason we moved here we put on an addition and had to keep it historic that costs alot more for what! to live next to an office building i have lived in neshanic all my life and yea would give our big half acre to open space if it would cut down our taxes. thanks lazorchek for wrecking a sunday while your on vacation I mean really what are we stupid.great job on video dwight your nieghbor mike m
Big Shirl March 25, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Well now- I think there's a lot of "pologizing" to do....especially from Susan Bond. Just a little lesson for all of you...before you go putting your thoughts in writing, get all the facts straight!
S.G. March 25, 2012 at 07:49 PM
What? Is there something missing here?

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