Written by Carisa Giardino Friday, 31 July 2009 00:00
To help alleviate the concerns of many living in Garden City’s Central section who fear corner lot subdivisions are threatening the village’s character, trustees are proposing a change in village code that would establish a Residence R-20C Corner Overlay District. The local law is being considered at a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 13 at village hall at 8 p.m.
According to Building Superintendent Mike Filippon, the overlay district, if approved, would only apply to certain parts of Garden City’s Central section.
The district would run along both sides of the major north/ south avenues in Central, specifically Rockaway Avenue and a portion of Cherry Valley Avenue from First Street to Stewart Avenue and then picking up again from Ninth Street to 11th Street; on Cathedral Avenue from First Street up to Stewart Avenue; and then on Hilton Avenue starting out just north of Barnes Lane at first just on the west side up to Fourth Street and then on both sides between Fourth and Sixth streets and just on the west side again from Sixth Street to 7th Street. The district continues, skipping a block then heading to the east side from Stewart Avenue up to Ninth Street and on both sides again from Ninth Street to 11th Street.
“If you had property within that overlay district on any one of those corners you could still subdivide the property if the result would be that the remaining corner lot would conform to all of R40 zoning district regulations, which initially of course requires a 40,000 square foot lot instead of 20,000, and all side yard and setbacks that go with that,” Filippon said.
The interior lot that’s left could conform to R20 regulations, which is the zoning there to begin with. “What that essentially means is that you’d have to start out with at least 60,000 square feet in order to have one 40,000 square foot lot and the other one 20,000 square feet,” Filippon said.
Current minimum frontage requirements are 125 feet for an R20 lot and 160 feet for an R40 lot. In other words, a resident’s frontage would have to be 285 feet to begin with.
Earlier this year, concerned residents asked trustees for a moratorium on any pending subdivisions slated in Central, which boasts large land plots and curb-free streets. In particular, two properties in the heart of the village, one at the southeast corner of Hilton Avenue and Tenth Street and the other located at the southeast corner of Rockaway Avenue and Fourth Street, came under scrutiny earlier this year.
The owners of the property at Hilton Avenue and Tenth Street sought a variance not so much for a subdivision but to lower the side yard requirement by 2.5 feet, making it 18.5 feet rather than 20 feet. Garden City’s Board of Appeals denied the application by a split vote of 2-2, an automatic denial. The owners appealed in Supreme Court, taking part in an Article 78 proceeding. The court ruled against the village and, according to Filippon, village officials have yet to decide whether or not to appeal.
Steven Irace, who’s lived in Garden City for nearly three decades, believes any changes to the large plots of land in Central would undoubtedly altar the neighborhood’s historic character, one of the many reasons why he returned to Garden City to raise his family.
Irace was primarily concerned with a corner lot at Fourth Street and Rockaway Avenue, which he said sits next to his Fourth Street home. The application sought to subdivide the existing 44,918 square foot premises into two plots.
The Maloney estate, owners of the property, sought a variance to essentially divide the property in half. Garden City’s Board of Appeals denied the application by a 3-2 vote, reasoning that one resulting lot of the subdivision came up 2.5 inches shy of the 125-foot requirement. Owners have since begun Article 78 proceedings in Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn the denial.
“We’re trying to preserve the village as we all know it,” Irace pleaded with trustees. “These corner lots were part of the original plan.”
Third Street resident Gregory Burke agreed. He loves his hometown and doesn’t want to see it change. He purchased a house in the Central section because the numbered streets offered big plots of land and beautiful homes. He now lives with his family in his fifth house in the village, built back in 1890.
“As part and parcel in keeping Garden City the way it was, I would ask the board to consider the moratorium on subdividing lots,” Burke said earlier this year.
Trustees, however, were not quick to place a moratorium into effect.
Former Building Department liaison and deputy mayor, Tom Lamberti, who represented the Central section while in office, told both Irace and Burke that facts were first needed, along with an opinion of counsel, before a moratorium could go into effect.
Lamberti wanted all plots capable of subdivision under current zoning inventoried; a planner engaged to determine what steps could be taken to prevent this from happening; and an opinion of counsel to ensure such steps were appropriate.
An inventory of all land plots capable of subdivision was later compiled, using the village’s GIS system. The information was forwarded to planners Buckhurst Fish and Jacquemart (BFJ).
It is important to note that if the overlay district is adopted, residents could still certainly subdivide their corner lot if all of the aforementioned requirements were met. Further, living within the proposed overlay district would not preclude residents from applying for a variance to the village’s Board of Appeals.
“Even if this law gets adopted it doesn’t preclude anyone from applying to the Board of Appeals for a variance. The law says you could apply to the Board of Appeals for a variance for anything, any law. That’s the whole purpose of a Board of Appeals,” Filippon said.