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City Council committee okays Bayside rezoning

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By Sophia Chang

On Monday, the Council's Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, chaired by Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) who also sponsored the proposal, voted in favor of the plan 8-0, with Katz abstaining again. The proposal now goes before the full Council for a vote, scheduled for Tuesday. Pending a favorable vote by the Council, the zoning changes could be law by the middle of the month. The proposal to rezone Bayside, driven by what critics say is overdevelopment of the area, has hinged on the creation of a new zoning designation considered the strictest in the city. Created specifically for Bayside with implications for low-density neighborhoods all around the city, the proposal, developed by the Department of City Planning, completely rezones the community's single-family detached housing areas from R2 to R2A, a designation which makes it more difficult to build large-scale houses on average size lots. Community Board 11 conditionally approved the plan in January, and Borough President Helen Marshall signed off on the proposal in late February.John Young, the Queens director of the Department of City Planning, presented the proposal to the subcommittee Monday, noting that the R2A zoning designation had been changed so that newly constructed homes will have to match their front yards with the setbacks of their neighbors to create a harmonious streetscape."This is intended to guide development to more closely match existing houses," Young said.Amanda Burden, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission and director of the Department of City Planning , called the proposal Monday a "comprehensive initiative to preserve the suburban residential ambiance that is intrinsic to the quality of life in this community."As close as the proposal is to being on the books, some community leaders and architects again voiced concerns over the restrictive zoning during the public portion of the subcommittee hearing Monday."We don't want absolutely no development at all," said Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece. "You're going to have many lots that will be non-compliant," said architect Michael Cosentino, representing the Queens arm of the American Institute of Architects. He singled out the proposal's lot width requirements as unrealistic.The voices of dissent during the hearing underscored Avella's characterization of the public review process as contentious."This has been a very tumultuous experience, but it's something that's very needed in Bayside," Avella said during the hearing Monday. "We have achieved something that is really extraordinary and groundbreaking in preventing overdevelopment."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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