This website is dedicated to the Michelin Plant on Ford Avenue, the Evans Family, Dr Forney and his sons, who they have given so much to the town of Milltown and for playing an important role in forming the town we love and respect. Also dedication goes to the remaining historical sites that are remaining that we hold dear to our heart, also to the ones that we have lost to the senseless disregard of our town history and to what makes this town so special, the residents that live and work here. We need to stop the senseless destruction of our historical landmarks and Milltown's history now before its to late and is lost forever.

Talking about our Town History is one Thing- Saving it is Another

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Milltown Message Board

August 7 2008

Historical panel proposal meets council resistance
Ordinance aimed at maintaining historic character of borough

MILLTOWN A proposed ordinance that would allow for the creation of historic home designations in the borough became cause for some debate between the mayor and council last week.

While some see the designating of historic homes as infringing on homeowners' rights, others claim such an ordinance is necessary to uphold the town's character.

"I must say that the direction [the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee] is going in, I don't agree with," Mayor Gloria Bradford said. "I've had [my] house for 50 years. It's very important to me, but it's my house."

While Bradford praised the overall aims and work of the committee, she said it would be overstepping its bounds by designating homes as historic, and then placing restrictions on what could be done to them.

Instead, she said the committee should set up criteria for eligibility, and then allow eligible homeowners to decide whether they wish to be included in the designation.

Councilman Joe Cruz agreed, saying homeowners should be asked, instead of required, to be a part of any historic district.

"It empowers the people ... it's their town," Cruz said.

Councilwoman Stacy Waters, who also serves as chair of the historical advisory panel, said there are misconceptions about the ordinance's objectives. The ultimate goal is simply to keep the homes in line with the overall look of the neighborhood, she said, adding that the committee would only provide input if a homeowner was embarking on a major project, such as an addition.

"The intention is not to prevent anybody from doing anything to their house," Waters said.

Both Waters and Councilman Brian Harto said allowing the homeowner to decide whether to be included in historic designation would defeat the purpose of creating such an ordinance in the first place. Waters urged the council to read the ordinance in order to fully understand what it entails. She also pointed out that, because it is a committee and not a commission, the historical preservation group can only make recommendations to homeowners.

"We cannot force anyone to do anything," Waters said.

According to Harto, other towns that have created historic designations for homes have enjoyed numerous benefits. He cited Cranbury, saying property values have risen by 15 to 20 percent as a result of historic designations. Harto asked Waters to share some of her research on the matter with the mayor and council in order to make them aware of the positive outcomes involved.

Resident Michael Lewycky also spoke out in favor of the proposed ordinance, saying many are operating under the false belief that it would affect their ability to place an air conditioning unit in a window or install siding on their homes.

"That's not the issue, Mike," Cruz said. "We're afraid of affecting their rights."

Several proponents of the ordinance cited the Forney House as an example of what can happen without such regulations in place. The borough Zoning Board of Adjustment last year approved an application from Valley National Bank that would allow the company to raze the house and replace it with a branch location.

The building dates to the mid to late1800s, and was built by the Evans family, whose son served as Milltown's first mayor. The house was converted to a medical facility, which operated from 1907 until the 1970s. Dr. Norman Forney was the borough's first surgeon, and many residents were born inside the house. Though residents' groups in favor of preserving the 150-year-old house have been fighting it every step of the way, owner Bhudev Sharma and bank officials have said the house is structurally unstable, and have no intentions of saving it.

Resident Charlie Jegou asked Cruz if he thought the fate of the Forney House was right for the town. Cruz said that, while ideally the house would have been preserved, it was Sharma's choice in the end.

Environmental Commission Chairman Alan Godber also cited the Forney House, saying the ordinance would prevent such historic gems from falling into a state of disrepair or dilapidated appearance.

"If we want to maintain some character to this town, we have to find a way that we can do that," Godber said.

Council President Randy Farkas asked if Waters could create a presentation in order to better educate officials and the public about the proposed ordinance. She said such a presentation is in the works, and aside from sharing it at a meeting, she also plans to provide information on the measure at Pride in Milltown Day this fall.