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Mountain Lakes' Historic Preservation Incentives
On July 23, 2012, the Mountain Lakes Borough Council approved a new ordinance designed to encourage preservation, and discourage demolition, of Mountain Lakes' original historic homes.
Unlike traditional historic preservation ordinances in New Jersey, which grant broad powers to a commission to regulate alterations and demolitions of structures within a historic district, the ordinance operates purely on an incentive basis by allowing owners of historic homes to make their homes significantly larger than permitted under the Borough's existing zoning ordinance without the need for a zoning variance. The ordinance does not place any new limitations on what an owner of a historic home could ultimately do with his or her property.
The ordinance is unique in offering broad zoning incentives to owners of historic homes who preserve their homes. While there are certain limitations on the types of alterations that can be made to a historic home and still retain eligibility for the zoning incentives, the limitations are intended to be the minimum necessary to maintain the historic "streetscape" of the community, and are primarily left to the property owner's architect to evaluate and confirm.
The ordinance was developed in response to a marked increase in the trend of demolitions of Mountain Lakes' historic Hapgood and Belhall homes -- with the number of losses by demolition and fire over the previous 20 years nearly doubling the number of losses over the first 80 years of the Borough's history. It is hoped that these incentives will sufficiently enhance the value of the Borough's original homes that current and future owners will not want to demolish these homes and thus lose the benefits provided by the ordinance.
There may still be instances where an owner wishes to demolish an existing historic home. For those cases, the ordinance establishes a 90-day notice period to provide an opportunity for the owner to learn about the benefits that would be lost if the home were demolished, and to allow for the home to be documented for the historical record before the demolition occurs. The fee for a demolition permit for a historic home is increased under the ordinance.
The Mountain Lakes Historic District is listed in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
For more information and background regarding the ordinance, please read our Frequently Asked Questions.
Note: This overview and further summary of key elements of the ordinance on these web pages should be considered aids in understanding the principal terms of the ordinance. They do not provide a definitive interpretation of the ordinance. Anyone relying on the ordinance should refer to the text of the ordinance itself.