Professional planning can be one of the most interesting careers to get involved with. Each time you get a job offer, you really never know what to expect. As a planner you could be doing something as simple as getting a sign variance for a McDonalds to something as complicated as converting a three bedroom residential dwelling into a bed and breakfast. With so many different types of structures and each town having their own set of rules, every job is different. In addition to each job being unique, each client has a story of their own, sometimes making the approval process much more complicated. A few weeks ago my father, who is a New Jersey professional planner had one of his most interesting planning cases that I’ve witnessed.
In 2014 a house was sold to a couple with three young children in Westfield NJ. Three days later, the new owners started to receive threating letters from someone that identified themselves as “The Watcher.” The messages asked questions asking if the owners had found what was in the walls and stated the watcher would call the young blood to them. The couple ended up not moving into the house because of the messages and instead tried to sell the house but no one wanted to move in. The house soon became known as the “Watcher” House and started to gain national attention. Because no one would buy the house, the owners decided to tear down the house and replace it with two smaller homes, which they needed approval from the town to do. The homeowners needed a variance to create two lots, which is the job of the professional planner to testify and obtain. Unfortunately for the homeowners, much of the community came out in opposition to the proposal, stating that two smaller homes didn’t fit with the overall feel of the community although the house was one of the largest in the area.
The meeting ended up getting extended but there was an objective lawyer that asked a lot of questions at the first meeting. The objective lawyer intends on putting an objective planner on the stand to counter argue all the points that my dad had made. The next meeting will most likely take place in January or February of next year and we will see if the family will get the approval that they seek.