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Zoning restrictions slated for22 blocks in Bellerose

Almost two dozen blocks of Bellerose could be rezoned to restrict new projects to one- or two-family homes in the coming months, with parts of Laurelton and Queens Village possibly to follow later in the year, the chairman of Community Board 13 said this week.

“We recognized that there were some parts of Bellerose that were under pressure from developers,” said Richard Hellenbrecht, of CB 13, which runs from Glen Oaks south along the Nassau border through Queens Village to Laurelton and Rochdale Village.

The plans for Queens Village and Laurelton are only in the initial stages, but a completed map for Bellerose has already been drawn up by the Department of City Planning after requests from CB 13 and local civic groups. The 22 blocks slated for so-called downzoning are nestled between Creedmoor State Hospital and the Cross Island Parkway, and proponents of the effort hope it will preserve the character of the neighborhood.

Downzoning involves changing the types of housing that is allowed in a particular area. Currently, the blocks being studied in Bellerose are zoned in the R3-2 category, which permits garden apartments, row houses, multi-family apartment buildings and semi-detached and detached homes.

The proposal envisions taking the R3-2 area and making some blocks R3A and others R2. R3A allows one- or two-family detached homes, while R2 only permits single-family detached houses.

Construction that has already been done legally will be grandfathered in if the proposal is approved.

The point of the changes, City Planning officials said last month, is to protect the neighborhood from overdevelopment and ensure that any construction matches the existing housing stock in size and appearance.

“City Planning’s rezoning proposal in Bellerose furthers the Bloomberg administration’s goal of reinforcing the distinctive character of residential neighborhoods,” Planning Director Amanda Burden said. “Our changes will preserve the one- and two-story, free-standing homes of the Bellerose neighborhood that its residents prize.”

When the 22 blocks were originally zoned in 1961, Hellenbrecht said residents had already built mostly one-family homes. The area should have been zoned accordingly but was not, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is correct that error,” Hellenbrecht said.

The proposal was first brought to the Planning Department in the late 1990s by Board 13 and the Bellerose-Hillside Civic Association and has the support of Borough President Helen Marshall’s Zoning Task Force and City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis).

Temporarily delayed by Sept. 11, 2001 and its aftermath, the plan was certified March 22 by the Planning Department. The same day, the department also certified a second proposal by Board 13 and the Royal Ranch Civic Association to rezone 13 lots in Floral Park’s Royal Ranch Development from R3-2 to R2.

“Houses were being expanded way more than people were comfortable with,” Hellenbrecht said of the Bellerose and Royal Ranch initiatives.

For downzoning proposals, an inventory must be made of each house in the area. The study can be done either by civic groups under a process known as 197A or by the Planning Department.

Once the study is complete, the proposal must be approved by all levels of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a seven-month process beginning with certification by the Planning Department and progressing to the local community board, the borough president’s office, the City Council and the City Planning Commission.

The Bellerose and Royal Ranch proposals are before Board 13, with a public meeting scheduled for 8 p.m. April 22 at Bell Park Jewish Center in Queens Village. A vote is scheduled for the board’s regular meeting April 26 at Parish Hall in Queens Village.

Downzoning proposals are also in the works for parts of Laurelton south of Merrick Boulevard and an as yet undesignated section of Queens Village. Hellenbrecht said teams of local residents would probably survey the Laurelton neighborhood, although no definite plans have been made for the proposal put forth by the Federated Blocks of Laurelton and Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton).

The Queens Village effort, requested by Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) would come after Laurelton, Hellenbrecht said.

Hellenbrecht said residents across Board 13 were eager to preserve their quality of life and the look of their neighborhoods.

Said Hellenbrecht: “It’s what people bought their houses for.”

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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