Builders Apply to Expand their Footprints at Zoning Board of Appeals
- Real Estate
- Published on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 22:16
- Joanne Wallenstein
If you're curious about why some new homes appear to extend to the lot line, are closer to the street than neighboring homes or tower above their neighbors, plan to attend a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals at Scarsdale Village Hall. This is the board that listens to pleas from residents and developers for variances from Village building code.
I attended a meeting on October 15 because I was concerned about a large new home going up in my neighborhood. When I arrived I found that the case had been deleted from the agenda – but there were many other interesting appeals so I decided to stay.
The first involved Nicola and Robert Ansell of 30 Murray Hill Road who wished to sell off a piece of their property to construct another home on the site. Historically tax lots 32 and 33 were actually two lots -- and to this day the homeowner pays two tax bills for the property which is 1.7 acres. Their lawyer from Cuddy and Feder maintained that the zoning law that was in force before 1947 would allow for two properties on the site with no minimum lot size requirement. Though current law requires a minimum plot of one acre the Ansells came before the Board of Appeals to create two non-conforming lots, one .9 acres and one of .77 acres. When the Chair suggested they apply to the Planning Board for permission to subdivide the property, the lawyer maintained that the property was already divided and no subdivision was required. However in 1984 previous owners had applied to subdivide and were turned down.
Elaine Petschek, whose home at 86 Mamaroneck Road is adjacent to the property in question said, "The prior owners asked for the same permission and were turned down by the village. If it is permitted my property will be negatively affected. The new owners should have known it did not meet requirements of one acre....we need to be protective of open spaces between houses – that's what makes Scarsdale beautiful. If you grant a variance you are adding to our continued loss of open space."
After much discussion, the decision on the application was held over to the next meeting to give the board time to analyze past and present zoning codes.
The next applicant was asking for a variance to intrude into a setback for a home that had not yet been designed at 20 Brookline Road. Contractor Joseph Daniel was asking for a 10-foot variance into a paper street adjacent to the site to contruct a "more balanced house." He claimed there would be no impact on the community and that the Board routinely grants these variances. Board Member Jeff Watiker asked, "If the house has not been designed, how do you know you need the variance? You are asking for the setback before you design the house." Board Chair George Lindsay said, "The board rarely approves free rein on a piece of land."
Several neighbors attended the meeting to voice their objections to the plan. Katherine Crowley said, "I have owned 15 Brookline Road for years. We love the path. It is bucolic and adds charm to the neighborhood. The new house can have an adverse affect on the community if it takes up more space on the lot. This is a substantial request for a 50% greater variance. When they purchased it they knew what was allowed to be built. They don't have plans so they can adjust to the size of the lot that they purchased."
Frank Fee of 2 Beechwood Lane across the street from the new house said, "This board does not approve open ended variances. There is lots of speculation. Lets get more specifics so we can make an informed judgment."
Also on the agenda were Josh Lamberg and Twin Oaks Construction who sought a substantial variance to build a 7,000 square foot home with a 3-car garage on a cul de sac at the end of Bethel Road – which is a bucolic, dead end street off Richbell. The current home is 3,200 square feet and the property is 1.2 acres. The backyard has a steep slope leading down to a stream and the new owner sought to move the home up toward the street so that there would be room for a yard in back.
The existing home meets the setback and is 50 feet from the road and Lamberg sought a variance to move it to 32 feet from the road. Jeff Watiker said, "The current house is 75 feet from property line and there is not much room behind it. You want to build a bigger house and move it forward. You are asking for a very big variance."
A neighbor across the street said, "My name is Robert Freedman and I am selling 3 Bethel Road. I feel privileged to have lived there. It was a private road. The house I lived in was built in 1927-28. We are the third family over 90 years. It is important for the road to look as it does."
The new owner, Josh Lamberg said, "We feel we are bringing value that will build the value of the neighborhood. The back is steep. It's a concern. I have a 4 year old and two six year olds and I want to create a safer environment."
The Board of Appeals held over decisions on the applications at Brookline Road and Bethel Road.
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