Applicant raises questions over Manorhaven’s calculation of building area

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Applicant raises questions over Manorhaven’s calculation of building area
The public hearing for 59 Orchard Beach Boulevard will continue into October's meeting of the Manorhaven Board of Zoning Appeals. (Photo courtesy of Google)

The interpretation of building area came under scrutiny last Tuesday night at a Manorhaven Board of Zoning Appeals hearing regarding 59 Orchard Beach Blvd.

The applicant, Port Washington-based Pond Ridge Homes LLC, is requesting three variances for the property, which include the structure’s lot coverage, side yard protrusion and to maintain already constructed open entry stairways on the left and right sides of the home.

No decision was made by the zoning board members at the meeting, and public comment will continue into October’s meeting.

While the applicant is requesting variances for a structure that is already being built, the applicant’s attorney, Albert D’Agostino, said the project was not being constructed “willy-nilly” but pursuant to permits issued in 2015 under former Mayor Giovanna Giunta’s administration.

According to Manorhaven’s spring newsletter, the current village administration decided to revisit the variances approved by the previous administration.

Emails made public by Manorhaven resident Nick Marra show that in October 2015 former Manorhaven Building Superintendent John Amisano issued stop orders on the Orchard Beach Boulevard project. The move resulted in his removal from the project and former village Attorney James Toner issuing approvals to the developer.

The instruction to remove Amisano came from village Clerk Sharon Abramski, who served as deputy village clerk at the time, under orders from Giunta, according to the emails. 

But the current administration issued a stop order in September 2017, and D’Agostino estimated building has been at a standstill since November 2018.

The variance regarding lot coverage took center stage at the board meeting. Zoning code allows for a building to cover no more than 35 percent of the lot on which it is situated. According to the meeting’s agenda, the applicant seeks to construct a structure that covers 45 percent of the property.

William Clemency, an independent inspector retained by the applicant, said in an affidavit read by D’Agostino that the question over building area “hinges on the different interpretations made by the various building superintendents serving the village over the project’s history.”

He said that “historically” portions of buildings built beyond the structure’s exterior foundation wall were not calculated into the building’s area, nor were decks or balconies.

John Schimenti of Lynbrook-based John Schimenti PC, the architect for the project, said that he has done a number of properties for the applicant and it was consistent that overhangs were not calculated into lot coverage.

“I’ve heard since that point, today, that [the village building superintendent] has approved other applications, post mine, doing the same thing,” he said.

He displayed plans for another home in the village dated May 15, 2018, that he said did not calculate overhangs into the lot coverage and were approved by the building superintendent.

Daniel Donatelli, a Port Washington lawyer who spoke on behalf of the owners of 67 Orchard Beach Blvd., speculated that the property would still need a variance for lot coverage even without calculating structures outside of the building’s foundation area.

The applicants are willing to make concessions in regard to the side yard protrusion and change of facade.

The variance for side yard protrusion regards the overhangs that jut 42 inches into the property’s side yards, while village code only allows a protrusion of 24 inches.

D’Agostino said the overhangs would be cut down in order to comply with the village code.

Schimenti and Clemency said the applicant would change the building’s stone facade to the horizontal siding that was originally approved by the village Architectural Review Board.

Representatives of the applicant said that plans have not substantially changed from the design originally approved by the village, with the only major modifications involving handicap accessibility. Clemency said that besides an exterior elevator, only minor modifications have been made to the home’s exterior.

D’Agostino suggested that residents might be upset about the development of 59 Orchard Beach Blvd. because of the property’s former use as a de facto neighborhood beach.

“There are some old photographs going back 20 years or thereabout showing beach chairs, picnic items and that type of thing,” he said. “And many of the comments in opposition, I think, came out of that.”

Residents approached the board with worries about the building’s proximity to its neighbors, fire safety and what they said was the building’s inconsistency with the character of the neighborhood.

Donatelli requested that the board deny the variances on behalf of his clients, whose property abuts the property in question.

“This thing sticks out like a sore thumb,” he said. “It is not in keeping with the context of the other buildings.”

He said the building is twice as tall as his client’s property to the west, taller than any other building in the area and that it seems to occupy the entire width of the plot.

Representatives of the applicant contended that the area does not have a consistent character and is instead a “potpourri” of home styles. They also suggested that the building enhances the streetscape.

Alternately, they said the home’s vacancy is having an adverse impact on the property values of neighboring homes.

In regard to fire safety, retired FDNY Chief Patrick Lyons spoke on behalf of the applicant and said he did not see anything that would prevent firefighting efforts. The home is fully alarmed and fully equipped with sprinklers.

Gibson concluded the meeting indicating concern over a lack of space between 59 Orchard Beach Blvd. and its neighbor, 67 Orchard Beach Blvd.

“There is definitely a space issue that is going to have to be addressed,” he said.

The next meeting of the zoning board is scheduled for Oct. 16.

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