By Ivan Pereira

The Department of City Planning met with residents at a special meeting last Thursday at the Lebanon Seventh-Day Adventist Church to show the most recent update to the plan, which was first created more than a year and a half ago. John Young, the director of City Planning's Queens office, said the plan is close to being ready for submission through the various city levels, such as Community Board 13 and the borough president's office, but he wants to make sure it meets the needs of residents.”A lot of work has benefited from the civic associations and residents because we get a lot back from our talks,” he said.The plan will rezone Laurelton in three areas.Neighborhoods north of Merrick Boulevard and south of 121st Avenue will be rezoned from a R2 designation to R2A, which will permit detached one-family houses with a smaller maximum street wall height, and a R32 designation to R3X, which will allow only one- or two-family detached houses.Commercial properties along Merrick Boulevard between 228th Street and Springfield Boulevard will change from to an R5D zone. Under this new designation, the streets will be able to build mixed-used buildings with one floor of shopping and two floors of apartments.Under this designation, there will be room for parking for at least 60 percent of the residents, according to Liz Errico, the City Planning manager for the project.”We want to knock down some of those obnoxious auto shops and replace it with some high-rise spaces. This will allow multi-family dwellings in smaller areas,” she said.The final change will be focused on the residential communities located south of Merrick Boulevard that are currently zoned R32 and R2. City Planning's proposal would change the R32 zones to R31, which allows only for single-family or two-family detached or semi-detached houses; R3X, which allows for detached one- or two-family houses with a minimum lot area of 3,325 square feet; and R3A designations.A area surrounded by 224th Street, 231st Street, 137th Avenue and 140th Avenue will remain a R2 designation because changing it would create a burden for current homeowners, according to Errico.”We did extensive analysis and we found…making it a R2A would make a hardship for those who wanted to expand their homes,” she said.This decision did not sit well with residents who are bothered by the over- development and housing construction boom that has been hitting Laurelton over the last couple of years.”I applaud City Planning for taking the initiative, but my main concern is how you are going to bring back the family homes to our neighborhood,” said one resident who did not disclose his name.Paul Graziano, a private urban planner hired to help City Planning create the rezoning plan, agreed with the residents and implored Young to change his plans for the section.”This section to me is a problem because the people who live there want the R2A” he said. “This area is not different from other areas which fought for a change from R2 to R2A.”Graziano and Young said they would work this problem out and listen to the residents' concerns. A meeting for a revised Laurelton plan, which Young said would go before Community Board 13 for the beginning of the approval process, will be presented at a meeting on Feb. 9 at 156 located at 229-02 137th Ave.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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