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Millburn Township Purchases Historic House, and More from Township Committee Meeting

Patricia Harris

Thursday, October 17, 2013 • 6:45am

MILLBURN, NJ - Millburn Township has bought the historic house at the corner of White Oak Ridge and Parsonage Hill roads with the intention of turning it into a museum.

Mayor Sandra Haimoff reported at Tuesday night’s Township Committee meeting that the closing took place Friday, Oct. 11. She told The Alternative Press the purchase price was $625,645.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “This is Millburn’s last chance to secure a bit of history.”

The Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society, a non-profit volunteer group, plans to operate the museum. The society will help the township obtain the necessary grants, and many are available, according to Haimoff.

The home was built between 1797 and 1800 and belonged to the Parsil family. The Parsils lived in three houses along White Oak Ridge Road, and their compound is believed to be the first true settlement in the township, Haimoff also said.

The house sits across from the family cemetery, which had been abandoned. Last month the township claimed title for the land and promised to maintain it with the help of civic groups including the Rolling Hills Garden Club.

“In generations to come, the children won’t just see the split levels of the 1950s or the McMansions of the 1990s in our town,” Haimoff said.

The township paved the way for the purchase of the home this summer when it added the property at 361/363 White Oak Ridge to the list of properties it might want to buy and for which $5 million was set aside.

In other business at Tuesday night’s session, the governing body confirmed it has reviewed a best practices inventory provided by the state. Township administrators filled out a questionnaire concerning general management, financial standards and procurement, budget preparation and presentation, health insurance, personnel, disaster preparedness and resiliency.

As a result of its high score, the township does not stand to lose any state aid.

Also at the session, the committee issued proclamations designating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and supporting Oct. 21-25 as Red Ribbon Week. Three members of the Millburn Municipal Alliance Committee were on hand to encourage citizens to participate in alcohol and other drug education and prevention activities, making a visible statement of commitment to a drug-free community.

Gail Barry, coordinator of MMAC, and Red Ribbon Week volunteers Debbi Abrams and Wendy Beckerman, displayed a poster saying, “Parents who host lose the most. Don’t be a party to teenage drinking. It’s against the law.”

Students throughout the township will be affixing red ribbons to trees and lampposts next week to remind passersby of their commitment.

Following the half hour meeting open to the public, the committee met in closed session to discuss its response to litigation brought against the township by the Chai Center for Judaism.

The center’s leader, Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky, is challenging the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s decision last year rejecting his site plan application for constructing a house of worship on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road.

Earlier this year Essex County Superior Court Judge Sebastian P. Lombardi overturned the board’s decision on the grounds it violates a federal land use law passed in 2000 protecting individuals and religious institutions from discrimination.

The judge struck down the township’s zoning ordinance and parking requirement which requires houses of worship to be constructed on 3 acres of land and to allocate one parking space for every three seats in the building. The zoning board ruled in February 2012 that the 1.8 acres of land on two combined lots on Jefferson Avenue was too small for building the proposed synagogue.

Local officials were scheduled to meet with the town’s planner to determine if the ordinance should be changed.

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