The Zoning Board of Adjustment last night approved an application that will allow construction of a two-story, 10-unit rental complex at the former Koza’s Bar site.
Needing five affirmative votes with only six members present, the board approved the application by a 5-1 with alternate Paula Braxton voting against, after more than an hour of testimony and discussion.
Planner Nicholas Sottoes testified that the application was almost exactly the same as the version approved by the board in 2008, and was actually about 237 square feet smaller, with fewer variances. There was no other change to the parking, shape or attitude of the plan previously adopted, he said.
The three-quarter acre site on West Scott Avenue (map) was sold in 2008 and different applications have come before the board four times previously — three of which have been rejected. Most recently, the Zoning Board rejected an application early this year for 12 rental units and a three-story building that would have required height variances, among other things.
An application for nine three-bedroom townhouses was approved in October 2008 but never materialized after the housing market collapsed. Almost a year earlier, the board rejected a plan for 12 townhouses.
The tavern was a nonconforming use and was razed after approval of the application in 2008. The B-1 zone allows for retail on the ground floor but the applicant’s representatives said that residential would be less intensive on the neighborhood, something that commissioners cited in their remarks, and actually requires a use variance.
Attorney John DeNoia said the application doesn’t maximize the property but uses it in a manner that should be able to assimilate with the rest of the neighborhood. “You’re not looking at something that’s significantly intrusive, you’re just substituting retail for five units,” he said.
One resident of West Scott Avenue had concerns about parking, with only 18 spaces for 10, two-bedroom units, saying that parking already is “horrendous” in the area, with motorists having difficulty turning from Allen Street onto West Scott. She also raised a concern that there was no plan to have an on-site superintendent, something that Braxton cited in voting against the application.
Other commissioners noted the eliminating of a nonconforming use and the benefit of not having commercial space drive more traffic. Aesthetically, the application would be a marked improvement over the debris-strewn lot that was there before, Commissioner Adrian Zapotocky said. Chairman William Hering noted that the determining factor for him was the absence of commercial space below the apartments, which is allowed by zoning but not included. “It’s definitely an improvement,” he said, and while property owners have every right to invest and develop their property, “it’s our job to make it fit.”
The board’s approval included some conditions, such as eliminating one parking space to allow for a turnaround area, making changes to the handicapped parking and Dumpster areas as well as some lighting issues and how the property looks fronting West Scott Avenue.
Commissioner James Heim and alternate Aleida Rosete were absent. Hering also announced at the meeting that Commissioner Ray Lopez submitted his resignation, technically leaving at least three vacancies on the board since Commissioner Daniel Garay, who was appointed in September has not yet been sworn in because he hasn’t attended a meeting yet.