Neighbors See Nothing 'Appropriate' for Vacant Lot
Residents near one of the vacant lots up for potential development in Chatham Borough say the lot is not buildable.
As Chatham Borough officials evaluate six lots for potential development and sale, neighbors of at least one of the lots—83 Chatham St., at the southeast corner of Chatham Street and Lafayette Avenue—plan to protest any plan to build on the lot.
Amanda and Mike Feeman live at 81 Chatham St., adjacent to the vacant lot. Their property line cuts at an angle to Chatham Street, so that both properties have diagonal property lines. Amanda said any development of 83 Chatham St. will impact their property value and quality of life.
Niamh O'Byrne lives on the western side of Lafayette Avenue, across the street from the vacant lot at Chatham Street. Lisa Bussinelli also lives on Lafayette Avenue, across the street from O'Byrne. The northern side of her property abuts the southern side of Feeman's. Like Feeman, both women are opposed to any sale of the lot for development.
According to Chatham Borough Engineer Vincent J. DeNave, the lot at 83 Chatham St., if buildable, is assessed at $424,400. Over seven trees sit on the property, several of which would have to come down for development. The lot is narrow, but deep, and would require a setback variance before any building could take place.
"You'll have the the town requesting a variance from the town. Either way, the town wins," Feeman said.
Chatham Street is in the middle of a trouble zone for traffic and pedestrian safety. The street intersects three major north-south thoroughfares:
- Lafayette Avenue, which leads to Chatham Middle School in the north and Southern Boulevard in the south, with Lafayette Avenue School and Chatham High School along the route;
- Washington Avenue, on which St. Patrick School and Washington Avenue School are located; and
- Fairmount Avenue, which leads to the Chatham Borough Municipal Building and Chatham New Jersey Transit Station to the north and Stanley Congregational Church and Nursery School and Chatham Township to the south.
All three avenues intersect with Main Street and downtown Chatham Borough, and with Watchung Avenue, and drivers and pedestrians use Chatham Street as a shortcut between them.
"People drive so fast down this road. It's already not safe," Feeman said. She daily sees drivers speeding on both Lafayette Avenue and Chatham Street, where the speed limits are 25 miles-per-hour, and running the stop sign on Chatham Street before turning onto Lafayette.
"The land is not situated in an area that could be easily developed" because of its proximity to four local schools, O'Byrne wrote in an email to Chatham Patch. "Adding any form of structure on this land will increase the complexity of an already taxed traffic pattern."
The lot at 83 Chatham St. sits at the top of a steep incline along both Lafayette Avenue and Chatham Street. This incline blocks Amanda Feeman's view as from pedestrians and oncoming motor traffic along Chatham Street.
"At eight in the morning and three in the afternoon, it's already so busy. If you put another house on that corner, forget it," Feeman said.
Bussinelli agreed. "This is such a busy intersection, and not just for cars," she said. "It doesn't make any sense. The size and shape of the lot just doesn't make sense for building."
'Can't Imagine Anything Appropriate'
Feeman and Bussinelli said there was no possible house design they could imagine that they would be happy with on the vacant lot.
"I can't imagine anything that would be appropriate for that lot, nothing that will fit people in it," Bussinelli said.
If the setback variances are granted, "I feel like some builder's going to buy that lot. They're going to build something ridiculously big. It's going to be awful, ugly. There's just nothing desirable about it," Feeman said.
Potential development on the lot would change the character of the neighborhood, in Bussinelli's opinion.
"I love having that space there. It benefits us personally, and aesthetically it benefits everybody else who walks and drives down the street," Bussinelli said, by providing open space and optimizing visibility at a busy intersection.