The final vote at the board, which covers the area from Glen Oaks in the north to Brookville in the south and runs along the Nassau border, was 27-0 with eight abstentions.
But the final tally belied the emotion and struggle behind the decision, which at its core pitted the rights of the individual against the perceived common good of the community.
The proposal involves rezoning 13 lots along 267th Street and 73rd Avenue from an R3-2 area to an R2 area. The switch, or "downzone," means the single-family homes on the lots cannot be reconstructed as multiple-family dwellings in the future, a change that is allowed with the current zoning.
Twelve single-family homes, each with their own lot and valued at about $650,000, are located in the area now. A 13th single-family house has already been demolished and replaced with two two-family structures.
Advocates of the plan, which include many members of the Royal Ranch Civic Association, said during the hearing the change was needed to protect the essence of their quiet residential neighborhood.
Opponents responded by calling the change "discriminatory" and said their neighbors should have been aware of the area's zoning when they bought their houses. They said they purchased their homes with that knowledge and should reserve the right to make changes to their houses.
"I paid for it. I want it to stay that way," said Ivan Zaradich, who explained that the home cost a little more because of the option to subdivide. As he spoke, a small group of supporters cheered raucously.
But the board voted to accept the plan, and the president of Royal Ranch Civic Association accepted congratulations as she left the meeting.
"We have fought long and hard for this because we feel it's what's best for the community," the president, Rhonda Kontner, said in the hallway.
After the Royal Ranch proposal, the board held a hearing and vote on a similar plan to downzone 22 blocks in Bellerose. The initiative was approved 36-0, with no public dissent.
Now that the two proposals have been passed by the board, they must be approved by the borough president, the City Council and the City Planning Commission.
On Monday, Board 13 also held a hearing and a vote on legislation involving the location of community facilities such as houses of worship and medical centers. The legislation, introduced by City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), would restrict the ability of such facilities to move into residential areas such as those in Board 13.
The effort has been ongoing for decades, and Avella has told the TimesLedger the legislation contains some compromises. But at the board's meeting, Sean Walsh, president of the Queens Civic Congress, called it a "flawed plan."
Walsh said the plan did not require religious facilities to provide an accurate count of their capacity, a figure used to determine the required parking spaces, and allowed an exception for medical centers that could result in facilities of up to 10,000 square feet.
But Liz Errico, a Queens planner for the Department of City Planning, said, "what we're trying to do is to protect the low-density areas and find some replacement areas for these houses of worship and medical facilities."
Board 13 members said medical centers should not have the automatic right to move into residential areas, and the religious facilities must be required to provide appropriate parking unless the members walk to services. But instead of approving the plan with their own amendments, the board voted it down 36-0 to make their concerns clear.
In addition to the hearings, the board announced in its monthly newsletter that the publication will now list demolition permits that have been recently issued.
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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