BSA Grants Variance for Senior Housing in Staten Island

Philip Ramulla testifies before the Board of Standards and Appeals. Image credit: BSA

Philip Ramulla testifies before the Board of Standards and Appeals. Image credit: BSA

Existing zoning regulations would not have permitted proposed three-story building.  On March 4, 2015, the Board of Standards and Appeals voted to grant Mangone Developers Corporation a variance for a proposed three-story senior housing building in Midland Beach, Staten Island. The proposed building is located at 1891 Richmond Road in a Special Natural Area District of Staten Island, at the corner of Richmond Road and Adams Avenue.

The proposed three-story building would feature sixteen dwelling units for persons fifty-five years of age or older, along with thirty-six accessory parking spots. On May 5, 2014, the Department of Buildings denied Mangone’s application because the proposed building was not permitted as-of-right in the development site. The site is zoned R3X, which only permits one- or two-family detached residences.  On June 3, 2014, Mangone applied to the Board for a use variance permitting construction of the three-story building as proposed. In the application Mangone stated the site suffers from unique physical conditions which create practical difficulties and unnecessary hardships in developing the site per underlying district regulations, specifically that the site slopes from fifty-seven feet in the southeast corner to one hundred and four feet in the northwest corner. The applicant also stated the soil contains hard serpentine rock which requires specialized excavation methods to remove prior to building, at significant cost.

A public hearing was held by the Board on December 16, 2014 and February 3, 2015.  At the December hearing, Philip Rampulla of Rampulla Associates Architects spoke on behalf of the applicant.  Mr. Rampulla clarified questions from the Board on prior City Planning Commission approvals and development for neighboring lots.  Mr. Rampulla testified that neighboring lots were previously developed with one- and two-family homes as of right because at the time, the market value of the houses was so high it outweighed the economic hardships of developing on the site, allowing the builders a reasonable return.  Mr. Rampulla then presented a study of what could be built as-of-right on the subject site compared to the proposed three-story building, demonstrating that only the proposed building would provide a reasonable return.  In later filings, the applicant pointed out the proposed building would have the same number of residential units as if they had instead built eight two-family homes, so no additional families would reside at the site than permitted by underlying regulations.

On March 4, 2015 the Board voted 4-0 to approve the variance.  In their report, the Board found there was no reasonable possibility that development in strict conformance and compliance with the applicable zoning regulations would provide a reasonable return that the requested relief was the minimum necessary to allow for a productive use of the site, and the proposed building would not alter the essential character of the surrounding neighborhood.

BSA: 1891 Richmond Road, Staten Island (118-14-BZ) (Mar. 4, 2015) (Rampulla Associates Architects, for Mangone Developers Corporation, owner).

By:  Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2014)

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