No fine for demolition of 1700s-era house

Photo by Daniel Jackovino The construction site at 43 Montgomery St., where a new building has replaced the Garrabrant House, a section of which had stood since the early 1700s. The house was unlawfully razed without a permit.
Photo by Daniel Jackovino
The construction site at 43 Montgomery St., where a new building has replaced the Garrabrant House, a section of which had stood since the early 1700s. The house was unlawfully razed without a permit.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The individual who purchased a Bloomfield residence dating back to the early 1700s, and then demolished it without the necessary permits, will not have to pay a fine to the township for his actions, according to an attorney for the home owner.

In a recent telephone interview, Charles Auffant, the attorney for Cesar Martinez, the individual who purchased the residence, located at 43 Montgomery St. and known as the Garrabrant House, said his client did not have to pay a penalty and he has received all necessary permits to go ahead and construct another house on the property. Auffant said Martinez is building a home at the site for himself and his family.

After the December 2014 demolition occurred, a stop construction order was issued to Martinez by the township. At that time, Glenn Domenick, the Bloomfield director of community development, and Mayor Michael Venezia, cited a possible $1,000-a-day fine for Martinez. The razing of the Garrabrant House, while not included on any preservation registry, shocked Bloomfield preservationists.

According to a June 23 resolution of the Essex County Construction Board of Appeals, which would have determined the amount of the penalty and imposed it, Martinez had appealed to the board on Dec. 30, 2014, saying he razed the house because it was about to collapse.

According to the resolution, Martinez, the owner of a construction company, had purchased the property to rehabilitate it. He submitted plans to the township for installing a foundation and footing and a permit was issued for this.

“Later in the day,” the resolution stated, “Martinez saw the building was collapsing as it was a very old home from the 1700s and had no foundation. Believing the situation posed an imminent danger, he entered the building to secure some gas pipes and took the building down so it wouldn’t collapse on its own.”

The resolution said no one representing Bloomfield was present at Martinez’s hearing, which took place on May 19. The board voted unanimously to uphold the violation notice issued to Martinez for demolishing the house, but it voted to not assess a penalty because the board had not been provided with a request for one.

In his telephone interview, Auffant said that while his client did not have to pay a fine for demolishing the house, he did have to pay his 2015 property taxes in full, as if the house were still standing. But in an email, Bloomfield Tax Assessor Joseph Pisauro said Martinez paid the full amount because the demolition permit was not issued until June 15, 2015. The tax amount was $10,870.

Bloomfield Councilman Carlos Pomares, who, just prior to the demise of the Garrabrant House, promoted an ordinance creating the Bloomfield Historic Preservation Commission, said he could not understand why no one represented the township at the appeal hearing. And not imposing a fine for the violation, he said, did no justice to the fact that a historic building was lost to everyone.

“The system was undermined,” Pomares said. “If the guy had done right by the house, he would have had a wonderful place. It’s very disappointing. What’s to prevent someone from doing this again?”

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