Board ready to approve Tredwell House plan

Project calls for three-lot subdivision, retaining older portions of house

BY KATHY HALL Correspondent


RUMSON — Rumson planners are ready to approve a new development application for the historic Tredwell House that will retain the older portions of the home and allow a new addition to be linked to it.

After two hours of discussion at their Dec. 6 meeting, members of the Rumson Planning Board indicated that they will unanimously vote for a compromise amended minor subdivision plan that will preserve the Tredwell House, while allowing its site to be subdivided.

The board directed that a resolution of approval be drafted for consideration at their next meeting.

The amended application, submitted on Nov. 19 by owners Arthur and Leslie Parent, will result in the creation of three single-family building lots and retain the two older (historic) portions of the Tredwell House. The 20th-century additions, the barn and gardener’s cottage would be demolished.

The applicant is also reserving the right to construct a new 10,000-square-foot, single-family dwelling on the lot, which will be joined to the historic structure through a 15-foot connecting link.

Because the lot containing the Tredwell House and the proposed principal building will not front on an improved public street, a bulk “c” variance will be required to allow access to the lot through a 25-foot-wide common driveway easement located on the adjacent proposed lot. A setback variance will also be required.

“It will be easier to rehabilitate it and keep the house’s historical nature as an accessory to the main building” explained Robert Gorski of Gorski Waldron Architects, East River Road, noting that it is common in Rumson to have a main structure link to smaller carriage houses.

“We will rehabilitate the house, keep its form, shingles and windows; the only difference will be removing the modern additions,” he explained.

Gorski submitted a drawing with exterior guidelines and proposed changes to the interior structure of the right side house, including leveling the floor and creating a 1 1/2 -story room.

“This will be a historic rehab rather than an attempt to make it a main residence” Gorski said. “We will preserve the integrity of the shell, but on the inside it would become one volume.”

Gorski explained that Parent intends to rehabilitate the Tredwell House and then sell the property to someone else, who would build the main house. “This will keep it historical,” Gorski explained. “No additions except the causeway could be built. Under this application we are imposing guidelines on a single-family house; no other house in town has any architectural guidelines.”

“This is an attempt to preserve the house,” said Richard Driver, of Wolfe, Block, Brock and Eichler, Roseland, who is representing the Parents. “The alternative is to demolish it.”

Both Gorski and Driver noted that the guidelines, based on National Preservation guidelines, were part of the application and would go with the Tredwell House. “The only way a future owner could change it is to come back to the board,” Driver said.

Members of the audience were not persuaded by the arguments. “What’s being saved other than the shell,” a member of the audience asked. “What’s the difference between a Disneyland house and the Tredwell House?”

Noting that the landmark homes in Rumson including the Tredwell House are protected by an ordinance intended to protect their historic character, Mary Lou Strong commented, “This application is not about historic preservation. This is an effort to disguise a venerable house into an appendage.

“Raising the floor level diminishes in a major way the structure of the house. The whole net effect is to denigrate this building in a major way,” concluded Strong, chairwoman of the Middletown Landmarks Commission.

Hollis Colquhoun, coordinator of the Rumson Historic Preservation Commission, was permitted to submit a letter to the board that stated in part that “The Rumson Historic Preservation Commission does not believe that the Parents’ plan satisfied the requirements of the Preservation Element of the Master Plan, which states: ‘Sites of historical, archeological, cultural, scenic or architectural significance should be identified, maintained and conserved.’

Peter Ingle, of Center Street, referred to an e-mail from Deborah Fimbel, principal historic preservation specialist with the N.J. State Historic Preservation Office, and inquired if new construction would trigger a new Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act review .

Fimbel’s e-mail noted that an archaeological survey conducted under the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act review had been undertaken as part of the Parents’ previous application but had never been submitted to DEP. Driver explained that the application had been withdrawn and there was no reason to submit the review.

Gorski added that there was no construction in the wetlands area in the current application.

Bernard Blum, Rumson’s borough engineer, explained that if there was no construction in the wetlands area of the property no further DEP involvement would be necessary.

Ingle further suggested that the subdivision was premature because of the possible archeological value of the property. Fimbel’s e-mail noted in part, “The prehistory of this property is apparently as significant as its history to judge from the material remains. Given the setting it also holds high potential to contain Native American burials.”

“We’re on the right track,” said Penelope Watson, a principal at Watson and Henry Architectural Firm, Bridgeton, who had been hired by the Planning Board observed. “But I don’t see these as sufficient guidelines. We should be using standards for rehabilitation for a building that is continuing to be used.” Those guidelines are not as stringent as those for preservation or restoration, she said.

Watson urged that a qualified historical architect be used on the project, observing that under the current application, “We are preserving some things that aren’t even appropriate,” Gorski said, also that they intended to hire a qualified historic architect.