The Zoning Board of Adjustment narrowly rejected a proposal to convert a West Scott Avenue convenience store into three residential apartments.
After about two hours of testimony at its Feb. 27 meeting, the application for 497-503 W. Scott Ave. (Block 239, Lot 52) was not approved by the board, 4-3. Assessed at $189,000, the site had property taxes of almost $11,000 last year.
The Scott Ave. Grocery and Deli, formerly J&J Food Mart, is located at the corner of Oliver Street and West Scott Avenue, and is an existing, nonconforming commercial use in a single-family zone. The original plan called for two three-bedroom apartments of more than 900 square feet and one two-bedroom apartment of 800 to 822 square feet, which was eventually was changed to three two-bedroom units.
Several neighbors testified for and against the application. Those against the application worried that more tenants would bring more problems with loitering and exacerbate parking issues, considering a six-unit apartment complex across the street. Those in favor of the application preferred a residential use to alleviate existing issues of traffic and parking related to the single-story store, including customers using their driveway to turn around, as well as concerns about crime. The owners testified they had been robbed three times, twice around 1998 and once in 2008.
Board members expressed concerns about recreational space for potential tenants’ children as well as flooding issues. The property was flooded with about a foot of water during Hurricane Irene last summer and the application included plans to raise the existing three-bedroom apartment several feet as well as move utilities to the roof. Board members also feared the property would likely end up looking like a converted convenience store regardless of aesthetic renovations.
Owners of the property, who had owned the store between 1991 and 1998, testified that business is down since reacquiring the store in 2009. Witnesses for the applicant testified that ideally, someone would acquire the property, demolish the building and construct a single-family home for a better fit in the neighborhood. That’s not economically feasible, however, and presented this application as the best they could do with the site.
The three board members who voted in favor of the application were Egon Behrmann, Joseph Gibilisco and Ray Lopez. The four who voted against were Paula Braxton, James Pellettiere, James Heim and Adrian Zapotocky.