28-leroyNew owner Charlie McCague says he spent $50,000 to restore the slate-and-copper roof of the structure and will preserve the clapboard exterior and interior layout.

After a vote that sharply divided the borough planning board, one of Red Bank’s most distinctive old mansions is going commercial.

The century-old Victorian at 28 LeRoy Place is to become an accountant’s office after a vote on the conversion split the board 5-4 Monday night.

Those in favor cited the fact that the structure is in a professional office zone and argued it would serve as a buffer between nearby homes and the “abomination” of the former Sun Bank at the corner of LeRoy and Broad Street.

Those opposed said they were concerned about “creeping commercialism” and a “domino effect” leading to other homes on Leroy being turned into offices on the strength of an approval.

“No,” said Councilwoman Sharon Lee, when called on to vote. “It constitutes an assault on our historic homes.”

28-leroy-doorThe front porch at 28 LeRoy place.

New owner Charlie McCague prevailed after a 90-minute hearing at which two homeowners voiced objections about parking and other concerns that were taken up by Lee, Mayor Pasquale Menna and two other board members.

Noting that he first ran for council in 1989 on a platform opposing “creeping commercialism” into residential areas, Menna said he was “torn” about his vote.

“Although this is a good application,”  recent efforts to preserve similar homes through the creation of the Washington Street Historic District led him to reject McCague’s plan, he said.

McCague told the board the house was built in 1897; county tax records indicate it was built a decade later. McCague’s attorney, Sean Byrnes, argued that local officials “knew what they were doing” when they designated the property as part of the professional office zone.

The house has been vacant for several years, owing largely to its ignominious connection to the scandals of Deal resident Solomon Dwek, who recently re-emerged in the public spotlight as an undercover bribe-giver in a federal sting that resulted in the arrests of two north Jersey mayors and a dozen other elected and appointed officials.

Dwek, through his wife Pearl, bought the property in May, 2006 for $675,000, and 14 months later transferred it into his own name.

After the collapse of Dwek’s real estate empire amid allegations of fraud, a bankruptcy receiver put the house on the market for about the price Dwek paid. But a couple of rounds of auctions drew no bids, McCague said last night.

He bought the house in May for $500,000, according to Monmouth County records. Since then, he said, he’s spent $50,000 to restore the roof to its original slate and copper materials. He told the board that, though no interior structural changes are planned, he’s budgeted $250,000 for renovations to insulate and replace wall surfaces and add a sprinkler system.

“He’s poised to sink quite a bit of money into this property to improve it to the splendor it once had,” Byrnes told the board.

The board imposed several conditions on the use of the property to which McCague agreed. The offices may be open for business only from 8a to 6p on weekdays and to 2p on Saturdays. No more than eight employees may work there, and a dense evergreen buffer must be installed to along the property line with the house next door.

Voting in favor of the conversion were Leonard Calabro, Lou Dimento, Guy Maratta, Stanley Sickels and board chairman John Cash.

Voting no with Lee and Menna were Jennifer Chirco and Barbara Boas, sitting in on her first meeting as a new alterate. She replaced the late Christine McKenna, who died in June.