The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District has been involved for 4 years in litigation over a proposal by the owners of Abbott Manor Nursing Home (810 Central Av. Plainfield NJ) to build a large modern addition onto the rear of its "mansion house". This would replace the ugly 1950s addition that is there now, but the new building would be about four times as large. The application was first filed in May 2000, a good 9 years ago, which is a story too long to recount here. The Plainfield Zoning Board of Adjustment rejected the application in a resounding 2002 decision, but then the City was sued over it in U.S. District Court, and the City immediately tried to settle the case, rather than defend its own ordinances and master plan. In 2005, the Board reversed itself and approved the application. After that, we appealed it to Superior Court, and won, but more recently, this was overturned by the Appellate Division. Currently, our Petition for Certification to the New Jersey Supreme Court is pending.
The precedent of allowing something large and intrusive into a low-density, residential historic district is a danger which VWB and its attorney, William H. Michelson, have been fighting long and hard. Unfortunately the land-use jurisprudence of New Jersey is in need of updating, and that is our goal. The problem has been the need to reconcile the "inherently beneficial use" doctrine (i.e., that nursing homes and social service providers get a boost in their zoning disputes) with the delicate nature of historic districts. This process is expensive, and contributions to our Abbott Manor Legal Defense Fund would be much appreciated.
written by WIlliam H. Michelson