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CB 11 okays plan to limit churches, doctors’ offices

After tacking six amendments onto the proposed community facilities zoning text...

By Cynthia Koons

A citywide proposal to keep houses of worship and medical offices out of residential neighborhoods like Bayside received guarded approval from Community Board 11 last week.

After tacking six amendments onto the proposed community facilities zoning text change, CB 11 voted 33-3, with one abstention, in favor of altering the rules that govern parking requirements at churches and doctors’ offices.

“We’ve just knocked on the door. This is not the final stage,” Sean Walsh, president of the Queens Civic Congress, said. “We’ve got their attention, now we have to work on the details.”

CB 11 members debated whether or not the proposed changes to the community facilities zoning text were sufficient.

The proposal was brought before the City Council’s Land Use Committee last summer. All community boards in the city must weigh in on it before it goes to the borough presidents and finally the full Council for approval.

“When the text amendment was first announced, I made the statement to City Council that it was not everything we asked for and it was not everything we hoped for,” Douglaston resident Eliott Socci said. “If this text amendment is not passed, it is highly likely that we will not see another attempt at regulating community facilities for another 20 years.”

With that thought in mind, CB 11 members mulled over the reasons why adding regulations, even ones not as strong as they might have hoped for, was necessary.

“People are not attached to their land anymore,” Bayside resident Mandingo Tshaka said. “I know people come to my church from New Jersey.”

For this reason, churches should be more accountable for their parking, he said. Many of the gripes over the community facilities text change revolved around houses of worship counting just their fixed chairs to meet parking requirements instead of accounting for the folding chairs that seat many of their congregants.

Tshaka said it was ridiculous for houses of worship not to have to include parking for their congregants who sit in folding chairs.

One of the CB 11 amendments would make houses of worship build parking for the total capacity of the building rather than the capacity of the largest room.

The other amendments include not allowing off-premise parking to be increased from 600 feet to 1,000 feet away.

The legislation, as originally championed by City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), was designed to prohibit medical offices from locating in one-family-home districts.

Walsh encouraged CB 11 to pass the zoning text change with emphasis on the fact that certain elements, including those that amendments were proposed for, were insufficient.

“We’re not saying ‘no,’ but these things are major problems,” Walsh said.

Some CB 11 members were skeptical their input would count.

“I see this as open-ended,” CB 11 member Frank Skala said. “I also see City Planning as accepting no amendments.”

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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