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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 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 , 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  had been trying to demolish the structure and build a 6,700-square feet office building.

However, the Historic Preservation Commission denied the request, which Lazorchak appealed. Lazorchak's application was .

Lazorchak and his attorney, Michelle Lamar, have not returned messages for comment.

Curt Carnes March 26, 2012 at 09:41 PM
WOW!!!!! Look, what he did was wrong, but in these days of anti-bullying laws, wasn't the government actually bullying Mr. Westover, by stripping him of his rights and wealth? Would a kid in school get punished for Bullying, if he told a fellow classmate he couldn't use his assigned locker anymore? At the end of the day, do you know what causes civil unrest? The Government does!
Peppermint Patti March 26, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Totally agree, the average person has no idea what it's like to go in front of the Planning or zoning board. They are totally on a power trip. Just try to get a simple permit for a shed, you'd think you were building a house.
S.G. March 26, 2012 at 10:51 PM
In 2001 he was granted his request to subdivide his 14-acre lot, agreeing to a deed restriction. This would have all been documented. In 2011, he requested another subdivision of 8-acres and was denied due to his agreement in 2001. What "rights and wealth" were taken? What bullying occurred?
Curt Carnes March 26, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Part 1 Oh Please -- Let start at the dead restriction and go forward from there. How would you feel if, assuming SG is who I think you are, you were told by the township, you can’t put that pool in your backyard, or you can put a pool in your backyard, BUT you can never have more than one car in your driveway then? You see SG its real easy to tell others what they should do with their property , but a little harder when someone is telling you want you can or can’t do. Particularly, when what you are doing has no impact on anyone or anything! What rights were taken? -- Well his rights to build another house somewhere on his 8 acres, and what wealth, let me repeat myself, his rights to build another house somewhere on his 8 acres Oh as long as I’m on a roll here, I’ve lived in this town for almost 30 years, and I do absolutely respect my neighbors in the Sourlands, but what I’m sick and tired of is some of those people walking around with their noses in the air telling everyone else in Hillsborough their Sourland backyards are “Special,” while the rest of us minions who live here backyards’ aren’t special! No development in the Sourlands, but it is a-okay to turn sheep farms into shopping malls, historical lots into car washes, dirt roads to paved, and so on and so forth anywhere else!
Curt Carnes March 26, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Part II Then where I really lose it is those same people with their self proclaimed “Special” backyards want more commercial or retail development shoved down everyone else’s throat, so those people with their “Special” backyards taxes can be lowed. . Pretty damn selfish of them when some of them have the nerve to call themselves farmers, even if their income is derived from a full time 60 or 80 hour work week jobs, because they have a steer or two on their property and pay as little as $800.00 a year on 10 acres of Hillsborough land, that just so happens to lay right next to their 4,000 st ft McMansion! Good Lord SG, how much FOH koolaid did you drink?
Peppermint Patti March 27, 2012 at 01:35 AM
@ nyy2316 I thought the same thing, where are all the big mouths who thought the fire was just a little suspicious and posted links to the articles about John going in front of the board. Funny nothing to say now!!!
Susan Bond March 27, 2012 at 04:04 AM
I still don't get it. WHY would he do it? To get back at the zoning board? Is he just a little pyromaniac? Did he set the fire on his own property? The zoning on the mountain is VERY restrictive. Many of the older homes on the mountain are worthless to those who own them. They're too small and old to sell as is and would normally be sold as "knock downs". Can't knock them down because the lots are too small. Can't build anything even remotely close to what you can get in other areas already built on similar sized lots... and you don't have the headaches of dealing with the board. If you don't own at least 5 acres up here, you're pretty much sc***ed. I'm betting all those people that have been in and out of the zoning board got their mansions built on the mountain before making sure NOTHING could be built too close by. BTW... the fire WAS suspicious... it WAS arson... I didn't post any links... and this is the first time I've been to the "Patch" since before the weekend. Do you people LIVE here? Looks like you all missed me... and someone else it seems. So... Westover goes to jail... Lazorchak gets his cleared land... and the decision is finally in the hands of the board. Looks like Lazorchak's a lucky guy.
Susan Bond March 27, 2012 at 04:10 AM
I did the shed thing... had to put it on our paved driveway. Two houses down... they had a hell of a time trying to get a pool in their yard after doing a MAJOR renovation on the house. I DO get it. My neighbors wanted 40 acres but had to give up 10 for "open space" and of course it had to be the part with the pond and they were told they couldn't subdivide amongst themselves and their 3 kids... oh... and the junk house on the property would have to stay. I wonder what stake someone on the board had in that property. Would be an interesting read.
Think About It March 27, 2012 at 04:21 AM
I don't think this is over yet. I do not see any connection between Westover's dilema and Lazorchak's. Westover wasn't going to gain a thing by setting thr stucture on fire and put himself in the place he did...and how ironic he would think to do something so horrible when the owner would be away on vacation. I doubt it was to teach anyone a lesson. I do agree with Susan--the fire was suspicious, and was arson. I no longer live in Hillsborough, but the minimum acreage requirement is not something new and somebody who has lived there for many years would certainly be aware of it. To Curt--yes, I agree some of the minimum taxes people have to pay because they plant a bush or two and get qualified as a farm is ridiculous...they don't even have to own a cow! The nursery Westover supposedly ran up on Zion (and the landscaping business he allowed Lazorchak to do) cost him a total of about $130 a year in taxes for that 7 acres because it was "classified" as farmland. All of you decent tax paying people are making up the difference for those who pay barely anything because they claim to own a chicken or a bush or two.
Curt Carnes March 27, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Ms. Bond. Now that the truth is clearly laid out on the table, and Mr. Lazorchak is indeed innocent, I would like to take this moment as a 30 year plus volunteer firefighter, to let you know just how vicious it is to call a firefighter an arson. It is paramount to saying a teacher hates kids, or a nurse would rather see you die in your hospital bed, than care for you. Mr Lazorchak has spent many years of his life, volunteering to stand in harms ways, and literarily putting his life on the line to fight fires. Mr Lazorchak knows very well, and much more than you ever will Ms. Bond, just how dangerous the job of firefighting really is. Mr Lazorchak also knows, again full well, that on any given call there is always the risk of serious injury or even death to not only him, but, also, one of his brother of sister firefighters. For you to label him an arson is not only vile on your behalf, but also flat out evil! In my mind Ms. Bond you owe Mr Lazorchak much more than your quip about how lucky he is. You owe that man, and every volunteer firefighter in this and neighboring communities, a sincere, spoken from the heart apology!
S.G. March 27, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Knowledgeable homeowners understand that there are restrictions on what they can do with their property. Most of the examples here probably have to do with impervious coverage regulations...related to ever-increasing flooding. It would be easy to say that no man is an island, but around here that is becoming an increasing possibility In this densely populated state, there are few things that anyone can do that have "no impact on anyone or anything." When it comes to construction on the mountain. the geology there presents unique problems including water supply and septics. It is hard to imagine that another residence could have been approved on that lot. Additionally, flag lots are not always considered good planning. Don't understand the pool reference, but I had a pool about 40 years ago. It could only be used about 3-months a year, was a lot of work, cost money to maintain, increased my homeowners insurance,and when the time came to sell a lot of buyers didn't want a pool.
S.G. March 27, 2012 at 12:37 PM
After checking on the Zion Road property I understand your reference: 7-acres, farm (qualified) (3B), 2011 Est. Property Tax - $118.26.
Curt Carnes March 27, 2012 at 12:45 PM
S.G., There you go, espousing the so typical enlightened liberal theme. “Knowledge Homeowners understand that there are restrictions on what they can do with their property” Is that to say, the rest of us are too stupid to know? We should be thankful for people like you who can save ourselves from ourselves? Do you actually think you know more than a farmer who has been working that land for 30 years knows about his own land? Do you actually think two houses on an 8 acres lot will cause flooding, as compared to just one house? Tell me SG are you degreed in engineering? How about environmental sciences? Hydrogeology? Land management? Civil engineering? Range management? Rangeland ecosystem? Do you even really know what an impervious surface is? Could you read a soil log and derive the absorbent rate of the dirt in your backyard? Or are you just enlightened by the buzz words? Do you think you actually have an understand the science of what is going on around you? Also, can you tell me why, your house and your development is devoid of all the problems you state for everyone else? Do you actually feel Hillsborough was built just for you? Now that you are here no one else can come? WOW, talked about exclusory zoning. You know what SG, if the world were filled with people like you, we’d still think the world was flat, and airplanes still needed to flap their wings to fly! Thankfully, there are actually some truly “knowledgeable” people in the world!
Brandon Knox March 27, 2012 at 05:05 PM
All this insanity above zoning requirements etc is one reason NJ has been hemorrhaging residents for decades. Who wants to put up with it and the taxes, when you can move somewhere else (generally with nicer weather) and not have to deal with all this?
Curt Carnes March 27, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Brandon, You’d be surprised how many native (maybe that should be native with out the “t”) New Jerseyens are actually surprised to learn the vast majority of the United States of America, doesn’t have zoning laws. Then if you really want to see their jaws drop, suggest to them if they cross the border into Pa., or many other States, the person standing next to them in line at the local grocery store might legally be carrying a gun on his or her person!!! As far as NJ hemorrhaging people, that’s not quite correct. What has happened is our population has remained some what steady, however, all most three quarters of a million High Wage Earners have left the state, and have been replace with three quarters of a million marginalized workers, many of whom are on one form or another of government entitlement programs. Have you noticed the SNAP sign in front of the 7-11, or the WIC signs that are popping up? Sadly many native New Jersey residents are actually naive of what is happening right in fornt of their noses, because they refuse to acknowledge the truth, and perfer to stick their head in the sand, or complain about someone building a shed in their backyard. BTW, are you aware some NJ politicians are trying to bring back RGGI, this time hiding it under the cover of Windmills off the Atlantic City Coast? http://www.americansforprosperity.org/113011-tell-gov-christie-stop-100m-offshore-windmill-boondoggle
Mike Pignataro (Editor) March 28, 2012 at 10:47 AM
An updated story has been posted: Curtis Westover appeared in front of the Township Committee Tuesday night, asking the governing body for help in resolving the zoning issue: http://patch.com/A-rXFm

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