Tall Parkway Building Slips Through Zoning Cracks

There are some new constructions that raise the eyebrows of those in the neighborhood and then there is the new building on the Parkway nearly touching Lee Burbank Highway – a development that slipped through the zoning cracks and has raised quite a bit more than eyebrows for residents.

The property, which is now coming together, will include eight units with parking underneath and is being built by John Hart of Beachmont. The striking part about the development is that is it mainly in a district of low, two-family homes and it towers to 50 feet/five stories. It also appears to nearly touch Lee Burbank Highway as it goes up.

More than a few have wondered why it was approved by the City, but the reality of the situation is that it was built by right – meaning that under the zoning codes it didn’t need any City approvals aside for a license to store cars in the underneath garage, which is essentially non-debatable.

Nearly every day, City Councillor Ira Novoselsky visits the site to make sure the neighbors are protected and to offer suggestions. That, he said, is the most that can be done.

He said the lot is actually including in the General Business District (GB) and attached to the diner and condo development above on the hill. He said when the City was re-zoned in 1996, the lot in question was simply overlooked.

“When you’re looking at a map, you’re looking at something flat; you’re not looking at elevations,” he said. “Unfortunately, back then they didn’t look at elevations. That parcel is actually part of the parcels above it on the highway. Nobody realized it. It fell through the cracks and when the developer bought it he realized that and capitalized on it. He didn’t do anything bad…Is it tall and out of place? Yes. Can we do anything about it? No. He’s doing everything by code and above and beyond…If we realized it before, we’d have been lucky and re-zoned it to a two-family. However, nobody knew.”

City Planner Frank Stringi said the City wasn’t happy with the plan when proposed at Site Plan Review, but quickly realized there was nothing they could do because of the zoning – where GB zoning allows one to build up to 50 feet or five stories.

“We weren’t happy about it, but there wasn’t much we could do to prevent it,” he said. “It has absolutely triggered a review for us of all such similar parcels that might be hidden and missed in previous re-zoning efforts. When you look at it in person, you wonder how it is they can do this. When you look at it on paper, you see that they can do it.”

Building Inspector Ben DeCristoforo said the developer did go through a process and did everything by the book.

“He had all the setbacks and the floor area ratio and the parking, which allowed him to build this by right,” he said. “He has the right to go up 50 feet in that district. Looking at it, it doesn’t give the impression that it conforms, but it does and he has been through the process. I have to say it has been high quality construction. The contractor and owner have spared no expense. He’s complied with everything we’ve said and has actually gone above and beyond.”

Council President Tony Zambuto said he believes it will be less controversial once it is finished and people move in.

“Is it annoying? Yes. It’s annoying to me too,” he said. “It’s not something we would have wanted there, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. I think in the end when it’s all finished and people see what the finished product is like, it will be a lot less controversial.”

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