As Beachwood Borough researches the development of a historic preservation ordinance and commission, we are going to begin tracking how one municipality to our north, the city of Long Branch, begins the process of introducing a long-sought after preservation ordinance of their own. It is our hope that by reading about their drive to sustained devlopment through preservation, our residents and borough officials will be aided by example.
Public hearing set for May 26 council meeting
Greater Media Newspapers
LONG BRANCH — The City Council has finally introduced a historical preservation ordinance after almost two years of delays.
The council unanimously voted 5-0 to introduce the ordinance at the May 12 meeting and scheduled a public hearing and final vote for the next meeting on May 26.
Long Branch Councilman Brian Unger has been pushing for approval of the ordinance since August 2007 and said he is confident that the council will endorse the ordinance.
“I believe it will be approved,” Unger said.
The ordinance aims to protect historical structures in the city by creating a Historic Preservation Advisory Commission that would review the potential effect of development and permit applications on designated historical sites.
The commission would review the potential effect of development and permit applications on designated historical sites and work with and advise the Planning and Zoning boards and individual property owners.
The ordinance will regulate only designated sites that require a permit and application for development.
The ordinance has the endorsement of the local historical society.
Beth Woolley, a trustee for the Long Branch Historical Society, said, “The only way to really protect private historical buildings is to have a local historical preservation ordinance.
“Most may not know this, but Long Branch is an extremely historic town,” Woolley added. “Long Branch has the potential to look like other towns that have embraced their historical buildings.”
The ordinance was expected to be on the agenda for the April 28 meeting but was ultimately pushed back until May 12 when the council agreed they needed more time to work on it
At the April 28 workshop, the council decided to push back the ordinance to clarify some of the language in it. According to Unger, there are no changes in the version of the ordinance introduced last week.
Dr. Frank Esposito, Kean University distinguished professor, suggested at the April 28 workshop that some of the ordinance should be rewritten.
“It is a step in the right direction, but it needs some revision,” Esposito said, “including downsizing and elimination of reference to a historic district. At this point, it may attempt to do too much.”
Esposito added that much of the ordinance is useful and that he supports the creation of a commission.
“The creation of the commission would keep a watchful eye on this issue,” Esposito said. The ordinance was expected to be introduced back on Feb. 24, but Unger requested that certain sections be rewritten to strengthen the role of the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.
“Someone … put in language taking away from the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission the ability to adopt and utilize their own best-practice professional guidelines for designation of historic properties,” Unger said at the time.
The commission would compile an inventory of historical sites and structures in the city that could qualify for historical preservation. The commission will consist of seven members and two alternate members, with alternates appointed by the mayor.
Of the seven members, three must be either knowledgeable in building design and construction or architectural history or have a demonstrated interest in local history.
The remaining four members will be residentswho do not hold any other municipal office, position or employment but may be members of the Planning or Zoning boards.
The ordinance defines the goals of the advisory committee.
“Maintaining, preserving, and rehabilitating these visual links to the past is an important function of government, not only to provide a sense of stability and continuity for future generations, but to provide impetus for the revitalization of the city’s economic base and for the resulting increase in property values,” the ordinance reads.
The ordinance lists specific goals, which include safeguarding the heritage of Long Branch, encouraging the continued use of historical landmarks, and maintaining and developing a “harmonious setting” for the historical and architecturally significant buildings.
Other goals listed are: to stabilize and improve property values, to promote appreciation of historical landmarks, to encourage the beautification of and reinvestment in historical sites, and to discourage demolition of historical resources.
The responsibilities of the commission include preparing and maintaining preservation guidelines, reviewing applications that affect the historical properties, recommendations on designs, and preparing an inventory of historical sites and landmarks.
It also states that new construction on or near a historical site should not necessarily duplicate the exact style of the site but should not detract from the historical site.
According to Woolley, one of the obstacles to preserving historical structures in Long Branch is that until now, the city has had total autonomy of control over historical landmarks.
“Historical preservation only encourages owners to keep their land,” Woolley said. “You can’t do anything to protect the buildings without a local preservation ordinance. Even if it’s listed by the state as a historic structure, it can be knocked down if it is privately owned,” she added.