Short Hills Park, the historic section of Short Hills, New Jersey is a designated part of Millburn Township; It's the original area that was developed by Stewart Hartshorn. He developed 80 numbered and designated homes within Short Hills. Along with being a real estate developer, Hartshorn happened to invent those white pull down shades. He was certainly an innovator, obviously appreciated unique forms of architecture, and had the great fore-site for "location, location, location".
Most of the homes developed were big beautiful stone front homes that were state of the art for it's time with exceptional on-trend architecture, with servant's quarters, guest houses, carriage houses, stables, and/or even gardens with landscapes worthy of awards. The creation of the town and it's essentials had it become the desired suburb that Stewart Hartshorn had envisioned. Now, as the years passed many of these large beautiful homes on many acres have had their land sub-divided, and developed by others to accommodate the changing times and needs of the area.
I personally live in this section of town and my current home has a historic stone detached garage to the right, that once belonged to the estate on my left. One of the former owners of that historic estate on my left, a numbered Hartshorn home, sub-divided their land at one point and gave up their garage. Don't worry they built a new one! The house across the street was the carriage or servant's quarters of a bigger home up the hill, which even has another home built in-between. Right around the corner, a beautiful home that had a backyard with a huge oval wall surrounding their garden was sub-divided with the two parts of that beautiful oval wall belonging to two different homes now.
So then the historic preservation board was created, we definitely seemed to have a need for it. I believe their beginning purpose was to have members of the community preserve the very nature and concept that Stewart Hartshorn originally created. With all the changes and updates needed with these homes, it seems appropriate. These homes have out-dated amenities, faulty dangerous electrical wiring, stairs and many other facets not up to code, and even detached garages still. The floor plans of many of these homes do not meet today's families desires and needs, certainly no family room and kitchen connections which is probably first on today's suburban home buyer's list. Did I mention that many of them lack air conditioning!?!
As a realtor, it's clear to me that the above deficits in a home would absolutely decrease its value. Living in this special part of town, it's surprising but guess what, the value of my own home is penalized (one that is updated more so than the above mentioned deficits - I have air conditioning, a wonderful family room and kitchen connection, and an attached garage as well), due to the mandatory enforcements that the historic preservation committee has on homes in this part of town. We can also blame it on the economy. But I can provide direct feedback from home buyers that have been looking at my house (it's for sale), and people have actually said that they "don't want to deal with the historic preservation committee". And it was multiple people that have stated that sentiment!
Kind of ironic that the same group that was created to preserve the very nature and integrity for Stewart Hartshorn's vision of this elite part of town, is actually contributing to the de-valuation of it!!!???
The other evening I went to a historic board meeting in my town. Matthew, my husband who is an architect with Simonian Rosenbaum Architects, is trying to get a modern home built in the historic section for a client. They want to replace a modern home, that has MANY of the above deficits mentioned, with a new construction modern home. Many of the points by the board were surprising, I felt closed minded even. Many of the points were useful, smart, and purposeful as well.
I found it most interesting that a couple of the board members stated that they felt a modern home has no place in Short Hills Park. Funny, cause I live in a modern home, across form a modern home, and the actual home in question is a MODERN HOME all in Short Hills Park! It seemed to me that they were hoping for the basic center hall colonial to go up in its place, after it was agreed that this home with so many deficits should be taken down. But shouldn't the same style of architecture be maintained, to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood for the home in question!? Frankly, I'd be offended if a basic center hall colonial went up in place of a modern home as someone who lives right around the corner. For a board member, a preference of a style of architecture should never be part of the conversation. The site has a modern home, so ONLY a modern home should ever be in that location!
While I was at the meeting I asked if there was a realtor on the board? Nope! I asked if they knew how many houses were on the market in the very area they represent, and if they were aware that many of them are sitting on the market taking one reduction after another to get sold. Homes that should be $2M, $3M or even $4M, are selling for millions less or not even selling at all! Now I acknowledge that the economy is what it is currently. Regardless, with many of these homes in need of drastic updates, the historic board's restrictions (and opinions) do not help with the valuation of these particular homes in this area of town. I feel that does not maintain the vision that Stewart Hartshorn originally had, to create a prosperous desirable suburb with on-trend architectural homes.
I stated as a realtor, the many buyers coming into town want what they want and are willing to pay for it. Their purchase is an investment in our town, for our town! The historic board should not prevent people from coming into town, developing homes to their specifications, adding money locally, and paying taxes to the valuation of the homes they create. Their role and purpose is to maintain the nature and integrity of what a real estate developer, architectural aficionado, a community member, and an innovator created so long ago.
I wish I would have also posed the question to this board: Do you feel you have a responsibility to also preserve the economic integrity of the town??? I would hope they would think that one through, cause it's all related! Your home valuation is counting on it!