Club looks to town to help save historical homes

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SPRING LAKE — The Spring Lake Preservation Alliance is proposing that the borough council create an ordinance that would give present and new incoming residents incentives to restore and keep their unique historical homes rather than tear them down and build a new house.

At last week’s council meeting, the first held exclusively in-person since March, Preservation Alliance president Joe Rizzo made a presentation to the council during public comment, explaining the importance of keeping these living pieces of history intact.

According to Mr. Rizzo, there are more than 650 homes in Spring Lake that were built before World War II, which is just below 50 percent of all homes in the borough. He also cited over 18 different “unique architectural styles” that can be found throughout Spring Lake, which he says makes the preservation of these homes so important, as outlined in the borough’s Master Plan.

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“A major component [of the Master Plan] that I helped come up with was preservation. We’ve been working now for years on public buildings, but also trying to get people to preserve their homes,” Mr. Rizzo said. He said that The Preservation Alliance has given awards to more than 130 houses deemed “remarkable.”

“People respond to Spring Lake emotionally. The way it looks, there’s something about it,” he said.

“At many places in the Master Plan it says to preserve the historic character and charm of the town. I would argue that those more than 18 styles and other things like converted farmhouse, carriagehouse, even stables …” he said.

The Preservation Alliance, he said, is very concerned that from 2010 to 2018 there was a large reduction in the number of historic homes, especially among the mid-sized and smaller homes, because they have been torn down in favor of much larger, sometimes with seven or eight bedrooms, expensive new houses. 

“During that period, 20 percent of the existing houses [built before 1945] were demolished,” Mr. Rizzo said. Mr. Rizzo said there are some builders who are actively trying to purchase these homes before knocking them down and rebuilding for a profit since real estate values are so high.

“In the end, what will happen is they’ll have a lot of money and we won’t have the Spring Lake that we’ve had before,” he said, adding that The Preservation Alliance has begun a project to compile a list of builders who are experts in restoration or expansion of already existing homes. 

Mr. Rizzo brought a large poster board into the meeting showing 45 eclectic historical and unique homes that can be found in the borough as an example for the council and public, most of which are from 1880 up to the Great Depression.

“During that period the styles changed but the homes remained. And really it creates something that you can find almost nowhere … Here it’s a real wide variety and I think is what makes it so special,” Mr. Rizzo said.

The Preservation is hoping that the borough council and planning board are able to come up with a plan that gives historical home owners incentives to keep their homes standing and keep that character. Many of the smaller homes were built before zoning laws, he said, making additions to properties more difficult [and less profitable] than tear-downs.

“What we have been offering with an ordinance is that maybe in some cases reasonable accommodations can be made for historical homes,” he said, using an example of height variances being raised for homes in flood zones.

“We’re suggesting … that council find ways to actively promote saving as many of these historic properties as possible.”

Resident Anita Kruse, who is also a member of the Preservation Alliance, said that the club wanted to emphasize ending  “demolition for dollars” by developers that she called “vultures.”

“There’s developers that come in that will knock at your door, offer you maybe market value for your house. But they’re going to build a new house, they’re going to double the coverage on that lot and they’re going to make a profit on it,” she said at the meeting.

She also criticized the new architecture as having “no diversity, no character.”

The next Spring Lake Borough council meeting will be on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 423 Warren Ave.

This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Coast Star—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.

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