The law firm operates from a building in a R-4 zone, which can only be occupied by a residence or “community use facility” such as a medical office or church.
While a variance issued in 1992 gave an exemption to the business for a period of 10 years, the variance has long since expired; an issue the firm brought to the attention of Community Board 11.
At a recent CB 11 meeting on Thursday, May 22, a representative of the firm explained that failing to renew the variance was an oversight, adding, “The person who would deal with this matter left the firm and it fell through the cracks.”
Unyielding, the board rejected the firm’s petition asking CB 11 to recommend to the Board of Standards and Appeals that the city agency renew the long expired variance enabling zoning compliance.
Joe McManus, chair of the Land Use Committee, said on behalf of his community, “They wanted us to waive our practices and procedures, which would mean we’d have to just forget the law."
McManus feels the variance likely would have been approved if it had been submitted in a timely fashion, but six years is too long.
“What’s the point in having rules and practices if they can just be changed?” McManus asked. “It’s nothing personal.”
The board’s decision is advisory in nature, and ultimately, it is up to the BSA to grant the new variance, but without CB 11’s help it will be harder for the law firm to convince the city agency alone. CB 11 district manager John Fratta doesn’t think the property owner has a case.
“In the past, the BSA has agreed with us,” he said. “They have to show the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals that they’re losing money and this is the only profitable use for this location.”
Both McManus and Fratta expressed no problems with the firm, commending the business for coming to the board on its own, rather than as a result of a complaint. According to both, it’s simply a matter of regulation.