A good plan for Tredwell House?

I

t’s 10:35 p.m. (Monday, March 6). I just got back from the Rumson Planning Board meeting on the proposed subdivision of the Tredwell site. Quite frankly, I was as shocked by some of the Planning Board member’s apparent biases as I was appalled by the subdivision plan itself.

The meeting started with a member pushing his slant that the master plan is not that significant and that the ordinance (actual law) does little to help protect the house. I can’t really comprehend how "Sites of historical, archaeological, cultural, scenic or architectural significance should be identified, maintained and conserved" (policy No. 4 of the master plan) could be stated more clearly. Yet somehow here was a member trying to convince us to not believe what is written.

After this enlightening interpretation, another board member informed us that somehow this plan, a "good plan," was actually doing us a favor. He (the applicant) could have flattened the house, built a nice wide paved road, sidewalks, a lovely cul-de-sac, you know, like the kind where they shoot neighborhood scenes for movies like ET and Poltergeist. But this is Rumson and maybe that wasn’t the best possible plan. So they asked for a new plan, maybe a little more country-lane-like. But before we got to see this Shangri-la, we had to endure yet another board member’s praise.

Three unofficial votes already, loud and clear (much clearer than the soon-to-be-debated contaminated runoff issues) for this "good plan." I felt a bit like I was 11 years old sitting at the Thanksgiving table being told by my World War II-hardened grandfather to eat my squash and like it.

Show me this light at the end of the tunnel — the "good plan" that saves the Tredwell House. Well, sort of saves it. A bunch of pieces anyway. Actually three pieces, (the other pieces don’t really matter anyway, right?) get dragged over to a new house where half will be brand new and half 300 years old. Oh, and add three more new houses, too.

I certainly mean no disrespect to the gentleman who, it was painfully clear, had less than no desire to be presenting his client’s plan to this quietly brooding crowd.

The gentleman said that this was a "good plan" and quite standard for most of Monmouth County. Yeah, maybe so. I might even buy that if it were an empty wooded lot. But hello, there is a 300-year-old "historic, architecturally significant" home smack in the middle of this lot. That’s not standard in any town, in any county, anywhere in New Jersey.

To me, kicking three pieces of history into a new house is not really what we, nor our past planners, had in mind. Well, maybe we should ask them. Maybe we should ask the new owner why he voted yes to adopt the revised master plan to save historic homes. Maybe he was just kidding back then. But it seems he’s serious now.

Go to the next meeting and see for yourself.

Eric Von Arx

Rumson