Monday, December 13, 2010

CB9 Gets First Look at Rezoning Proposal by Lisa Fraser - Leader-Observer

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Members of Community Board 9 along with residents of the Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Richmond Hill neighborhoods got a first look at the proposed recommendations of the Department of City Planning’s new plan to rezone the area.

Over 30 attendees gathered at the Emanuel Church of Christ on 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard last Wednesday to hear the department’s proposed study, which aims to preserve the architectural character while also bringing more development to Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and parts of Ozone Park.

The meeting was the first of a few being held by the department’s Queens office, where residents have a chance to voice any concerns.

“We want to do a better job than the current zoning of protecting the character of Woodhaven and stabilizing development pressures,” said John Young, Queens director of the City Planning.

The rezoning encompasses 248 blocks bounded by Park Lane to the north, 103rd Avenue to the south, the Van Wyck Expressway to the east and Eldert Lane to the west.

The rezoning has three main goals: to protect neighborhood character within low-density zones, to promote higher density residential and mixed use development along busy corridors like Jamaica Avenue, and to reinforce commercial districts to support economic development.

The meeting focused mainly on low-density, residential zones, which allow housing and community facilities to be built. Even though the study area stretches broad, two current residential zoning districts in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill were looked at primarily – the R3-1 district which is north of Atlantic Avenue and stretches to Park Lane South and the R5 district, which is south of Atlantic Avenue and extends to Liberty Avenue.

The R3-1 district permits one family detached and semi-detached buildings.

“The single family character is predominant in this district but what has been happening in recent years is that new development has been popping up and some of it is out of character,” said Brendan Pillar, a city planner.

The department plans to rezone 14 blocks in the current R3-1 district in Woodhaven with a new R3A recommendation, which will ensure that only one- or two-family detached buildings be built. Semi-detached buildings would no longer be permitted.

This new zoning, if adopted, would extend from 88 Avenue to 91st Avenue and run between 88th Street and Woodhaven Boulevard and is set up to reflect the current building style.

Fourty-four other blocks within the R3-1 district have received a new R3X recommendation, which will also allow only one- or two-family detached buildings. The R3X districts are recommended north of Jamaica Avenue and extend to Park Lane South on both sides of Forest Parkway to 89 Street, and also from 91 Street to 97 Street and south of Jamaica to 91 Avenue between the east side of 98 Street and Woodhaven.

Recommendations along wide streets like Jamaica and Atlantic avenues will ensure that buildings permitting retail and office uses be built as well as wider varieties of retail service establishments.

“It will help reinforce the already strong commercial corridor in this area, it will better reflect the height and bulk of these buildings,” Pillar said, as buildings in this area rise two and three stories.

The current R5 district allows for all housing types. But the predominant character of the neighborhood consists of one- and two-family detached and semi-detached homes. New developments like multi-family buildings have popped up in the area and if the rezoning goes into effect, they will no longer be allowed.

The department is recommending R4A zoning in the area, which encompasses Richmond Hill and a small part of Ozone Park. The R4A zoning will allow only one and two family detached buildings, helping to protect the character that is predominant in the area.

The zoning districts will receive their first change since 1961 when the Zoning Resolution was adopted. The rezoning was undertaken in response to community concerns that the current zoning allows out-of-character development.

“One thing we’re trying to do is stabilize these area and take development pressure off of them,” Young said.

The effort will complement the zoning changes that occurred in 2005 in Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens.

The department plans to do more outreach to community groups and hold more meetings in December and the early part of 2011. The next meeting will be held on December 15 at Royal Indian Palace on

The department will make the final recommendations by the end of winter. After the finalizations, reviews and approval by the Borough President’s office, the state planning commission and the City Council, the zoning changes could take anywhere from four to seven months to be implemented.