The South Orange Planning Board found the demolition permit submitted on behalf of the Convent Station-based Sisters of Christian Charity of Saint Elizabeth incomplete, delaying any decision on the property until at least February.
The Planning Board members voted unanimously that the application was incomplete at a Monday night meeting that was standing-room only. The Sisters of Christian Charity of Saint Elizabeth, and their representatives, are expected to return next month to pursue the permit.
The former Graves family estate, now the convent on the Marylawn School of the Oranges property, is located at 425 Scotland Road. According to Carlotta Budd, spokeswoman for the Sisters of Christian Charity of Saint Elizabeth, the permit sought is "strictly for demolition." The permit details the work as, "demolish the existing three story residence, backfill, re-grading, seed and hay site."
Budd said the Sisters of Christian Charity of Saint Elizabeth do not yet know what will happen to the property. However, the power has been disconnected and, said Budd, the property is ready to be demolished.
The Planning Board members, however, deemed the application incomplete, as it was necessary missing title documentation, including an affidavit of title.
Budd noted that her application included a letter of opinion from an attorney, declaring the title clear. Planning Board member Janine Bauer replied that she would look skeptically at such a letter presented by the applicant's own counsel.
Budd further argued that the property should not be considered part of the historic zone codified in December, since her application was submitted before that time.
The Planning Board declined to discuss that point, noting that Budd needed to submit a complete application before discussion of the next step.
Nearly 100 residents attended the meeting. Many were neighbors of the property who asked if they would be notified again of the application before the February meeting.
Others were members of the Montrose Park Historic District Association, who oppose the demolition. Their position, outlined in several emails, follows:
We are asking for your support to help us stop the demolition of the Graves Mansion. Not only is the mansion stunning inside, but the property is zoned for single family use. Marylawn is taking steps to remove the historic home and pave the way for a developer to build a multi-unit apartment building. In order to accommodate their wish to sell the property to a developer, the house must be torn down.
In addition to defacing the entrance to our historic district, a 100+ unit building will have a severe negative impact on traffic, tax our resources and be a major blight on our landscape. No one from the Sisters of St. Elizabeth's is a resident of Montrose Park or even South Orange.
The home was once the Graves family estate. The house and family are decribed here and here.
, citing financial woes.
The next meeting of the Planning Board is Feb. 4, 2012, 7:30 p.m.