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Gardens residents slam zoning changes

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The Planning Commission intends to use one amendment to transfer all enforcement of the 33-year-old zoning rules to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which established its own home improvement restrictions on Sunnyside Gardens last summer."Out of all the things on our shopping list, it doesn't seem like we got anything," CB 2 Chairman Joe Conley said. The board's land use committee will review the new amendment before the full board gives comment, he said.Many of the residents who supported the landmarking of Sunnyside Gardens also wanted to preserve the protections included in the special zoning designation. When the Planning Commission submitted its text amendment for public comment, many in CB 2 requested language banning specific items like sheds and other obstacles from backyards, which lead to common central gardens.City Planner Amanda Ikert told the board that the commission considered the requests but decided against them. The commission did change the maximum floor-area ratio in the district from 0.9 to 0.75 in the amendment, she said."Prohibitions on all these things was not where Planning wanted to stand," Ikert said. "We wanted to sort of pass the baton (to the LPC)."The Planning Commission designated Sunnyside Gardens a special zoning district in 1974. But since any changes to houses in the district required homeowners to go through the extensive land use review process usually reserved for major construction projects, only two applications were filed in the 33 years the rules were in effect.In the meantime, landmarking proponents claimed, many residents conducted illegal modifications to their homes.But although the home-modification process has now been streamlined under the LPC, at least one homeowner was experiencing difficulties. The board voted to write a letter of support his resistance to the LPC's direction in rebuilding his front porch. The homeowner's enclosed wooden front porch was falling apart, Conley said. When the owner contacted the LPC about rebuilding, the agency suggested using wooden siding. The homeowner wanted to rebuild the porch with brick, Crowley said.The request sparked a discussion over whether it was CB 2's responsibility to handle such issues. One man worried the move would set a precedent that would inundate the board with home-modification issues."We're trying to make this process as transparent as possible," Conley said, "so people know what's happening."Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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