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The project, located on City Island Avenue near Cross Street, at the site of the former Royal Marina at 521 City Island Avenue, calls for 22, two-family homes on a former boat storage yard.
The City Planning Commission granted the site a variance in 2004, officially called an authorization to allow the developer, then Les Lerner and Beechwood Organization, to build beyond the contextual zoning that was already in place.
When Hiam Joseph purchased the plans and land in 2007, the authorization carried over, but it lapsed at the end of July, 2008.
“A letter of notice of intent to revoke approval and permits was sent to the owner on Friday, August 15,” said DOB spokesman Charlie Ratzer. “The developer has a 10 to 15 day window to appeal.”
Some of the possible defenses the developer, Joseph, is expected to make are that the foundations have already been put into place, and that the work was completed before the authorization expired.
Nevertheless, because the authorization was not renewed, the integrity of all of the permits the Department of Building issued, one for each of the 22 homes, are now called into question. A stop work order has been issued, and an investigation by DOB is pending.
“This is a victory for people like myself who feel that downzoning needs to be followed to the letter of the law,” commented Councilman Jimmy Vacca. “I feel that the developer did not do enough work to be grandfathered in under the authorization. I have said downzoning has got to be like a bible, and I work to make sure that every building in my district is built to code.”
According to a source close to the case, it does not appear that significant construction has occurred at the site, with a dispute over what exactly constitutes extensive foundation work. There does not appear to be any sort of foundation installed, outside of several pilings that have been driven into the ground.
“Since CPC approved the plans, the project should go through as we originally planned,” said Joseph. “We already have foundations, and 80% of the pilings are already in place.”
While piling work along the waterfront property has occurred, it is not clear if this will be enough for the developer to prove a financial hardship, the criteria the DOB would use when considering whether or not to allow the development to proceed in its current incarnation.
“If we have to start from the beginning again, we may consider putting a restaurant in there,” Joseph continued. “But I don’t understand what people on City Island are so concerned about.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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