Representatives from Bayside’s Briarwood Organization said the group’s plan to extend its operations along Bell Boulevard would not change the character of the street as they mapped out the proposal during a land use hearing last week at Borough Hall.
The organization, at 36-35 Bell Blvd., has proposed creating a C2-2 overlay, which allows for commercial property in a residential zone, in an existing R-4 residential zone, which permits all housing types at the corner of Bell Boulevard and 36th Avenue. This would clear the way for the developer to purchase a house owned by Redeemer Lutheran Church next door to its site so the real estate group could expand its office.
The plan, which would also provide space for a doctor’s office, would make 36th to 38th avenues along Bell Boulevard a completely commercial zone.
Briarwood discussed its plans for the Bayside strip during a hearing with Borough President Helen Marshall’s Land Use Committee last Thursday.
“This is a minor application for a small commercial rezoning,” said Richard Bass, an attorney representing Briarwood. “It’s good planning and good rezoning. I think the community’s concerns are real, but misguided.”
Community Board 11 voted 26-7 against the proposal at its June 15 meeting. The board suggested an alternate plan that would rezone the home on the property to C1-2, which allows for small stores or office buildings, but retain the church property as an R-4 zone.
Board members said they were concerned approving the original proposal could open the door to a variety of businesses, such as auto or gun repair, which would be out of character with the community.
“We don’t want to vote on a pig and poke,” board member Henry Euler said. “We have to think of what’s good for the neighborhood. I’m upset that this commercial overlay would extend through the whole block. I think it’s premature.”
Bishop David Benke, of Redeemer Lutheran Church, said the house of worship intends to remain in the community and that Briarwood’s proposal would allow it to undergo further renovations.
“This church is not about to sell its property,” he said, “It’s going to use the property. We are integrated in the community.”
Vincent Riso said his development group has been a longstanding member of the community. The group built the Hatton Funeral Home on Bell Boulevard in 1957, its own first office building in 1964 and several stores in 1968 as well as Redeemer Lutheran School in the 1960s.
“The Briarwood Organization has a vested interest in Bell Boulevard,” he said.
Marshall will have 30 days to decide whether to approve the proposal before it goes before the City Council. Bass said the plan could be approved by September.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2009 Community News Group
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