Planning and Zoning Boards Abolished as Unnecessary!

If you’ve been paying attention to the Planning Board you’ve seen a woman trying to open a small dumpster business down along Rt. 9J in an area not zoned for that type of thing. I’ve seen her appear three times now with her plans, her engineer, her hopes and dreams for the future. During that same time I’ve heard only rumors of a similar non-compliant project going up at 1 Cooper Ave., off of Phillips Rd. Nothing before the Planning Board. Sewer connection made while under a town-wide moratorium. An old 1937-era garage was purchased and plans submitted to the Town for a simple $6,000 fix to the roof, walls and footings in November 2013. Fine. Somehow, without any plans or permission, that little upgrade turned into an office building! How? The owner and the builder JUST DID IT, providing drawings with no preparer’s name or stamps on them, just an address and a date: Nov. 2014, after the work had been done and like most things, only when outsiders took an interest.

Hey, nice dumpster lady trying to follow the rules: JUST DO IT! The Planning and Zoning Boards are irrelevant! Look at the documents from 1 Cooper Ave, and then read last night’s Planning Board investigation report from Judith Condo which basically says… JUST DO IT! The lesson here? If you have land and want to put up or change the purpose of a structure of any kind… JUST DO IT! Is this an indictment of the property owner? No. This is an indictment of the Town apparatus that allowed “the magic” to happen, that allows people to JUST DO IT.  It’s all so unnecessary because the Zoning Board probably would have granted a variance anyway. So why do it the wrong way? I have no idea, but whoever solves that question solves every other problem facing East Greenbush over the past decade. Dwight Jenkins

From Judith Condo’s Planning Board Recommendation:

“On January 2, 2015 Judith Condo visited 1 Cooper Avenue, Rensselaer, NY, the subject garage across the street from 2 Cooper Avenue, the business location of the property owner. She spoke to Brian Hart, the owner of 1 Cooper, LLC and 2 Cooper Avenue. She also spoke to the owners of two other commercial interests on the corners of Phillips Avenue and Iowa Avenue and Virginia Avenue. Of the surrounding neighbors west of Phillips Avenue, only one is owner-occupied residential at 102 Iowa Avenue. The other properties include an apartment building with five units next to the garage with an off-site owner in Scotia, NY and two single family rented homes owned by the Hart Family Properties, Inc. and another local businessman. Hart shares his parking area with tenants of the apartment building across the street which lacks parking.

Each owner was personally contacted and none raised any objection to the conversion of a two-story garage across from 2 Cooper Avenue. The business owner at 2 Cooper has been in continuous operation for many years and is deemed a good neighbor by those contacted. He states that his side of the street was commercial before the Zoning changed several years ago to R-2. He believed the street was zoned CI- Corporate Office/Light Industrial. His operation covers the entire block on the west side of Cooper Avenue between Iowa Avenue and Virginia Avenue and is parallel to Phillips Avenue. The subject garage is part of the property owned by the corporation and located behind and next to the house on the corner of Phillips and Iowa Avenues. The garage portion of the property has been subdivided from the Iowa Avenue house with its own 1 Cooper Avenue address.

Brian Hart is seeking a Use Variance in an R-2 Zoning District in order to convert a previously dilapidated two-story garage into a two-story professional office space intended for his brother’s engineering business. The garage had been a semi-commercial space used for auto repair by the previous owner prior to the Zoning change. According to the current owner, the condition of the garage was unstable to support the second story so new footings, walls and second story supports were constructed along with exterior siding applied to match the house on the property. The building construction was recently stopped awaiting a variance. The main entrance is adjacent to the house and leads to an interior staircase to the second floor. The garage doors have been removed. Both floors will be used for office space if the Use Variance is granted.

A Use Variance requires the satisfaction of four criteria including a demonstration that the property in question cannot realize a reasonable return if restricted to the allowable uses. The hardship is supposed to be unique and such that the new use will not change the character of the neighborhood. The hardship is not to be self-created.

From a planning perspective, the sought after use is a logical extension of the existing commercial and residential uses in the neighborhood. The garage was on the property purchased by Hart Family Properties and later sub divided. It is directly across the street from the other Hart property. This block has been largely used for commercial purposes, sharing parking with the owner of 2 Cooper Avenue. Without Mr. Hart’s permission, there would not be room for off-street parking anywhere on the block. The remaining permitted residential uses for the garage include a multi-family residence which would compound the parking problem and present a safety hazard posed by large trucks servicing 2 Cooper Avenue. The granting of a Use Variance would allow for a more cohesive presentation of the businesses owned by the Hart Family Properties.” 

 

Anonymous drawings submitted AFTER the building was up.

 

What it used to look like since 1937

What it used to look like since 1937

What it looks like today.

What it looks like today.

Original intent: fix up a sagging old garage.

Original intent: fix up a sagging old garage.

Expired permit for a different project at the site.

Expired permit for the original project at the site.