The People Are Heard!

Clarkstown ZBA denies variances for Lakewood Drive property

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

At its August 19 meeting, the Clarkstown Zoning Board of Appeals quietly denied builder WC Montebello’s appeal for variances to construct a 48 foot bi-level house (2,784 square feet) on an undersized lot (9,221 square feet) at 129 Lakewood Drive in Congers.

As previously reported in the Rockland County Times, over 200 local residents had, at an earlier ZBA meeting, vociferously protested the requested variances which would have resulted in a change in the side yard to 16 feet where 20 feet is required, the front yard to 28 feet where 30 is required and the floor area ratio to .30 where a maximum of .23 is permitted. Neighborhood concerns included privacy and safety issues arising from the oversized dimensions of the project, as well as the negative impact such an out-of-character building would have on the neighborhood.

Pete Bradley, leader of the Clarkstown Preservation Society which organized the protests, stated that the community was gratified that the ZBA had listened and responded to the concerns of the residents. The homeowners immediately adjacent to the property and therefore most affected by the plans were especially happy with the results.

Consideration of several factors, as outlined in section 267-b (3) of the Town Law, formed the basis of the Board’s decision. First, the ZBA agreed with the community that the disparity between the size of the proposed dwelling and the majority of the homes in the neighborhood, especially as it was to be built on an undersized lot, would create an undesirable change in the character of the neighborhood.

Second, the requested variances were significantly substantial in that none of the lots in the neighborhood have houses as large as the proposed house on a lot as small as the proposed lot. Further, the ZBA considered the impact upon the local roads, sewers, storm drains and water supply of such a development, with its greater than permitted floor area ratio on an undersized parcel.

The Board also stated that the “alleged difficulty was self-created…which is not fatal…(but) significant in determining whether to grant an area variance, especially where the Applicant is an experienced builder.”

When asked about what might happen next with the property, Zoning Enforcement Officer Joel Epstein stated that the owner has several options, ranging from simply building a structure that conformed to code and would require no variances to filing a lawsuit to challenge the decision, to renovating the buildings already on the site, to applying for new variances or selling the property “as is.” Calls by the Rockland County Times to WC Montebello’s attorney inquiring about the builder’s future plans were not returned.