Lapsed variance may doom CI waterfront homes

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In what was seemed a surprise for builder and community alike, a new development on City Island that was slated to include 22 homes might no longer comply with zoning because of a lapse in a variance.

The City Planning Commission granted the variance in 2005, officially called an authorization, to allow the developer, then Les Lerner and the Beechwood Organization, to build beyond the contextual downzoning that was in place.

According to reliable sources, the authorization lapsed on July 28, calling into question the Department of Buildings’ permits for the site. The new developer, Hiam Joseph who purchased the plans and site in 2007, said that authorization from the CPC is not necessary for construction.

“This is news to me,” said developer Hiam Joseph, when asked about the authorizat­ion’s expiration. “I am not aware that CPC was involved in the process. There is no permit attached to this process with CPC, and no need for permits with CPC. No one has told us anything.” 

The development, called Harbour Pointe, is located off City Island Avenue near Cross Street. The plans call for 22 two-family homes, and a private street running to the waterfront from City Island Avenue, called Harbour Pointe Drive. The site is the former Royal Marina, which was located at 521 City Island Avenue.

The DOB did not comment as of press time on this matter, but a complaint has already been filed for non-compliance with zoning at the site, and an investigation is likely forthcoming.

If no significant construction has taken place at the site, the plans could be withdrawn and resubmitted, this time under the more stringent the 2005 downzoning of City Island, as well as the Lower Density Growth Management provision which applies to all of Community Board 10, put in place in 2006.

 It is up to CPC and DOB to define “significant constructi­on.” 

The news came as a pleasant surprise to an outspoken City Island advocate for sustainable growth, who felt that the homes planned for the site are not a good fit for the island.

“I would like to see a development for the site that fits with the tenor and the tone of the rest of the island,” said Bill Stanton, a strong detractor of the project. “There is a history of destroying neighborhoods by putting up too many multiple family dwellings at once.”

Stanton, who has lived on the island since 1970, feels that the community has “only one shot,” to protect itself against over-saturation of housing which he feels is the downfall of many locales.

Stanton has made his views clear in a letter to the editor in The Island Current, at the City Island Civic Association, and elsewhere.

“I want to make it clear that I do not want to count other people’s money,” Stanton noted. “I wouldn’t want someone doing that to me. But, when you impede on my quality of life, I feel I need to speak up.”

Stanton said the original developer, Les Lerner, who was planning to develop the project in tandem with the Beechwood Organization, was wrong in his design. He has also spoke with Hiam Joseph, the current developer, and the two have differing opinions on what is good development for the site.

“I pray he doesn’t put in 22 homes and 44 families,” Stanton pleaded. “There are an abundant amount of houses on the market right now on City Island.”

CPC did not comment as of press time.

Updated 5:30 pm, October 21, 2011
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