FAIR LAWN, N.J. — The Fair Lawn Council voted at its last 2015 work session to change the use of land around the historic Vanderbeck House on Dunkerhook Road to allow townhouses.
An agreement the council reached with property owner Barrister Development is contingent on Barrister preserving the portion of the mansion that's deemed historic and opening it up to the Fair Lawn Historic Commission for tours, according to Mayor John Cosgrove.
The townhouses will be for people 55 and older so as not to add students to the district, the mayor added.
Cosgrove believes this is the best course of action to preserve the 261-year old house, noting that the town could not afford the $2.2 million that Barrister paid for the property.
"For the borough to enter into purchasing this home would put us in financial distress and we would have to cut vital services," Cosgrove said. "What this does is save the house, but the town does not have the burden of purchasing the land and property and preservation of it."
The re-purposing of the land has angered some residents, including Marc Coyler, a local advocate who is working with a group to preserve the mansion.
Allowing Barrister to develop townhouses on the property will lead to its eventual destruction, Coyler said.
"I think the town is trying to pull a fast one on the people," he said.
A Change.org petition seeks to preserve the mansion, and Coyler estimates there are 500 or so local residents who support saving it.
"We plan on attending every council meeting until we get a resolution of this," Coyler said. "We are going to do the best we can to get them not to rezone this."
Cosgrove says the Vanderbeck zoning ordinance will be on the consent agenda at the Jan. 26 council meeting.