Variance denied: owner sought commercial use

Owner sought to develop a one-story building on a corner lot formerly occupied by two-story single-family home. The owner of a vacant lot at the corner of Midland Avenue and Freeborn Street in Staten Island applied for a use variance to construct a one-story commercial building. A two-story single-family home formerly occupied the 60 x 87 foot site, which consisted of two separate lots that were merged in 2008.

The owner claimed that the lot’s shallow depth and the area’s commercial nature, which included several automotive businesses and dry cleaners, constrained residential development. The owner cited Midland Avenue’s heavy traffic and the lot’s proximity to the border of a 100-year floodplain as additional conditions making an as-of-right development difficult.

BSA denied the application, noting that the corner lot’s regular rectangular shape provided the owner with at least two alternatives for orienting two complying semidetached homes, including facing Midland Avenue with a depth of 87 feet or facing Freeborn Street with a depth of 60 feet. BSA said the owner did not supply evidence showing the lot’s size constrained residential development, pointing out that the 5,220 sq.ft. site was larger than the average site within a 400-foot radius.

BSA rejected the owner’s assertion regarding the area’s commercial nature, pointing out that other than four small businesses fronting Midland Avenue, the subject block consisted entirely of residential uses. It also rejected the assertion that proximity to a floodplain created a hardship, noting that restrictions on ground floor residential use would not prevent the owner from building two habitable semidetached three-story homes. Lastly, BSA found that Midland Avenue’s two lanes of traffic did not qualify as a unique condition.

BSA: 546 Midland Avenue, Staten Island (241-08-BZ) (Sept. 22, 2009) (Rothkrug, Rothkrug & Spector, for Devonshire Enterprises Inc.). CITYADMIN

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