ZBA May 14, 2003

MEMBERS PRESENT:        Donald Sapir, Chairman
                                Rhoda Stephens
                                Paul Rolnick
                                Witt Barlow

ALSO PRESENT:           Joseph Sperber, Code Enforcement Officer


The meeting came to order at 8:00 P.M.

Sapir – Chairman of the Board announced the location of fire exists to all in attendance of the meeting.


Joseph Clements, 8 Hunter Place.  Section 78.08 Block 4 Lot 21.  Request for rear yard and total side yard variance with respect to a proposed deck and second story addition.

Stephens – Isn’t the correct address “Hunter Street”?

Joe Clements – I have seen it used as both “Street” and “Place”.  
I purchased the property last July.  The house is only 670 sq. ft.  It has two bedrooms and one bath.  I plan to build a second story and an 8 ft. addition in the back.  A portion of the land was sold to a neighbor by the previous owner for parking space.  I purchased a pre-existing non-conforming house.  A variance was granted prior to my purchase of the property.

Rolnick – The variance was granted at an earlier sale of the house?

Clements - At the time of the sale it was noticed that it was non-conforming.

Stephens – What was the previous owner’s name?

Clements - I don’t know.  I know one previous owner was “Bannon”.
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Barlow – Is that not in the minutes that we have included as part of the application?

Sapir – (After reviewing his records) – yes.

Clements – It is my understanding that I could build a second story without a variance, but the addition to the back would be increasing the degree of non- conformity.  I would need a rear yard variance just for the construction of the proposed deck.

The neighbor to the immediate side of me has a deck that extends even further than what I am proposing.

Sapir – You may need variance to build the second story, because you are legally non-conforming.

Clements - I have a letter from Daniel O’Connor, Village Engineer, saying that, if I want to build a second story over the existing footprint, I would not need a variance.  I would only need a variance if I install a deck, because it is encroaching in the back yard requirements.

Stephens – Are you demolishing anything?

Clements - Yes the original construction is not well done, it will not support a second story.  The walls are really crooked.   On the exterior wall there are 1 x 4’s and 2 x 4’s on the present walls and the house is now vacant.

Sapir – Has it been vacant since you owned it?

Clements - Yes.

Rolnick – What are your intentions once you improve it?

Clements –To use it as a private residence.  I am now living in an apartment in Cortlandt.

Sapir –At what address?

Clements - 176 Dogwood Road, Cortland Manor, N.Y., l0567

Sapir – Who will be occupying the residence?

Clements – My son and I.

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Stephens– You are planning on going out 8 ft. on the back and then construct the deck?

Clements – Correct.

Stephens – Is there much of a slope there?

Clements - No

Barlow – Isn’t there a retaining wall there?

Discussion followed over plans.

Clements - The retaining wall is a little on my property and then there is a chain link fence beyond that.

Sapir – Will the front of the house come down?

Clements - I will leave that up to my contractor, but I would rather have it come down.

Sapir – What will the front look like if you do take it down?  Do you have any plans or elevation plans?

Clements – Yes, I have plans, but they may not be totally accurate.  There is a basement where there is bedrock, so it is not a full basement.

Barlow – Is it not usable as living space?

Clements – Correct.

Rolnick – When you purchased, what was your intention then, to live there as it is?

Clements - I was definitely intending to put an addition.

Stephens – Do you know when the original structure was built?

Clements – In the 1960’s, I think.

Discussion followed over plans.

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Barlow - I would think that a variance would be necessary to build the second story, but (referring to Village Engineers Letter to the applicant) he does not say that.

Rolnick – We have seen before, where a variance has been granted and building up does not increase the nonconformity.  But, where there is an existing nonconformity anything requires a variance.

Sapir – Also, if the previous variance states; “according to plans submitted” they cannot go beyond that.

Rolnick – This variance seems to say that the house is non-conforming and it is grandfathered and they are putting a parking space on the property line.

Sperber–The Resolution of 1993 shows a variance was given from a portion of a property so that property in question increased in non-conformity, but the other property did not.  The reason for this variance is because the applicant wants to build towards the back of the property.  He already has the variance for the side yard.  When he builds the second story it will be within the original footprint of the previous variance, it is only the rear yard that makes it necessary for him to have a variance.  The new addition is non-compliant with zoning.  That is what requires this action.  The previous variance was given only to give the property owner a parking area.

Barlow - Wasn’t it the other parcel next door that was given a portion of the applicants property and that is why the applicant needs a variance?  The original variance did “not” cover the applicant’s property.    I also believe that the previous variance made no mention of the parcel that gave the piece to the neighbor or maybe the other way around.

Rolnick – The previous Resolution is saying a piece is being taken out of this property and the new setbacks as result of that variance are OK.  So, what Joseph Sperber, is saying is that it is not a grandfathering of the non-conformity, but a specific variance that took place.

Sperber– If you have a pre-existing non-conforming use, then a variance is required.  If they want a second story and a variance has already been obtained and they stay within the footprint of that variance, then a variance is not required.

Rolnick – Did the Village Engineer see the minutes of that meeting?  I do not think he saw the Resolution and minutes.

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Sperber – I have the minutes (from the applicants file).

Minutes from the applicant’s file were given to the board to review.

Sapir – Do you have any elevation plans of the house?

Clements - There is one I submitted with the application.

Discussion followed over plans.

Sapir – Any other questions?

Rolnick – What would be the hardship if the variance is not granted?

Clements - It would not be practical to live in the house. I have a young son and I want an office in the basement.  I have two small existing bedrooms and one bathroom, a kitchen, and no dinning room.  The previous owner, who has passed away, had a very narrow table in the living room with chairs around it.  The new construction will have three bedrooms and a bath upstairs in addition to the existing bath.

Barlow – And an office?

Clements - Yes.

Stephens – And you will be reconfiguring the rooms on the first floor?

Clements – Yes.

Barlow – What about the deck is that an issue?

Clements – I need a variance for the deck also. It will be 10 ft. deep and 24 ft. wide.

Barlow – What if no variance is given for the deck?  What would the hardship be?

Clements– My neighbor to the right (North) has a deck and it extends way beyond where I would go with my proposal.
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Barlow – Their yard may be deeper it is hard to tell.

Clements – Their property line goes to the edge and straight down.

Stephens – Are you asking for an 8 ft. variance in the rear?

Clements - The side yard is 17 ft. from the property line to the edge of the deck.

Sperber - The applicant did not consider that the rear yard would be needed when he first applied for a variance. I came up with a figure of 17 ft. because of the deck, not the house.

Rolnick – Without the deck he would need a variance for the house, because it is increasing the side and not the rear yard?

Sperber –Correct.  The house needs a side yard variance, but it would meet for the rear yard without the deck.

Discussion followed over plans.

Stephens – He needs a total side yard of 2.06 ft.

Sperber - Yes.

Rolnick – Have you talked to your neighbors?

Clements - No

Sapir – Are you meeting the percentage that is required?

Clements -Yes

Barlow – Could you put a patio instead of a deck and achieve the same thing?

Clements - I don’t know if I could achieve the same thing.  I would rather have a deck.  

Rolnick – Are there any other two-story houses in the area?

Clements -There is another house to the left of my house and that house is a two story.

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Sapir – Would anyone else like to be heard?

Fred Rubin – 7 Hunter Street – I live across the street.   I have no objections to the application I just have a question.  I also plan on building and I do not need a variance, but I am concerned, is there a limit of Building Permits allowed per street?

Sperber – If you are planning on building and the proposed plans meet the Building Zoning, and State Building Codes, and Regulations, there is no limitation as to how many permits will be allowed at a given time.

Rubin - I am prepared for the permit, I am just waiting for my loan.

Sapir – To Mr. Clements – What will the exterior be?

Clements – Cedar Shake, Colonial look.

Sapir – It will be no closer to the street than it already is?

Clements – No.  If it matters, I previously owned a house on Morningside Drive and I remodeled it.  It was in serious disrepair and it is now very nice.

Rolnick – Do you now have a plan that shows the elevation plans?

Clements – Yes, but not with me.

Rolnick – What would the hardship be, if this hearing were adjourned until next month?

Clements -It might impact my contractor’s schedule.

Stephens -  To Joseph Sperber,  was anything submitted to your office as far as plans?

Sperber – No, this is it.

Sapir – Do you have the plans in your car?

Clements – No.

Sapir - Anyone else like to be heard?

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James Knight – 39 Palmer Ave.  I live next door.   I am very familiar with the house. When the house was up for sale I put an offer on the house.  I looked at the house and I thought it was the worst constructed house I have ever seen.   I work as a plumber and in the construction trade.  Although I could not offer the money for the house, I had major concern with the terrain.  The yard is basically on a cliff without any geological or geographic foundation for it.   I would be concerned about the safety of the occupants.  I think there is a very big structural concern here.

Sapir - The applicant is planning on tearing it down.

Knight - I did not hear that, I came to the meeting late.   That would be the best way to go.

Sapir – It would be the decision of the Engineer as to whether or not the house or construction is structurally safe and sound.

Sperber – Yes.  The engineer would then request remediation work necessary to the foundation.  It would require Licensed, certified, stamped drawings, with respect to what is existing and what is proposed.  There would also be a thorough structural review.

Knight – I understand.  If I had purchased that house I would not build up without foundation requirements.  That is what this house needs.  That is my opinion.

Sapir – When you looked at the house did you see any rock?

Knight - No not bedrock.  I would call it outcropping.  The homes below it on Palmer Ave. was owned by a man; this is village hear-say; he was using the site as an excavation point for land fill in other areas.  It is unnatural the way the homes on Palmer are located.  There is a huge drop off adjacent to this man’s property.  You can look in your records and see who owned that land.  I am not a geologist I am a plumber, but I do have common sense to know that if there were a severe rainstorm or pressure on that land there could be problems.  You say it will be demolished down to the foundation.  That tells me they have done their homework, because that is what it needs and it needs to be anchored.

Rolnick – Are you aware of any runoff?

Knight Yes.  When it rains hard the flooding is severe.  Had I known that, I would never have purchased my house.

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Arthur Clements, Applicants Architect and Father, 176 Dogwood Road, Cortlandt, N.Y.

There are footings that are large and strong to hold the load.  We are going to super impose.  We will continue up and reframe the house from there up.  There is at least 35 ft. that is relatively level before it drops off, so I do not see how that house will be detrimental to other properties.

Barlow – That house looks as though it is in nice shape from the outside.   Is that a facade.

Clements - Yes.

Mr. Clements (Architect) - We thought all it would need was alterations, but soon found that the floors and walls were rotted and it needs work.  The previous owners put vinyl siding, but underneath it, it is not great.

Clements – My architect, who is with me tonight, has drawn a quick elevation for you to see.

Sketch was submitted to the board for review.

Mr. Rubin and Mr. Knight (neighbors present at the hearing) were invited to view the sketch.

After viewing the sketch, the neighbors had no objections.

Sapir – Are there any issues with respect to the scale of the house and size of the lot.  That is a concern in this village.  People are building houses much too large for the lot.

Clements - I would say that it is probably just as deep as my neighbors.

Sapir – But their lots are wider.

Clements I am not sure it is wider.  It may be deeper.

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Rolnick – Is the vacant lot next to you a buildable lot?

Clements - I do not know.  The people behind me own that too, but I do not know if it is subdivided or not or if they can build on it.

Sapir – Does the Board want to vote tonight or should we adjourn and request elevation plans.

Rolnick – I have not seen this property and I apologize.  I am not comfortable voting on this without seeing elevation plans.  I think this is a lot that would benefit from what is proposed, but it is a dramatic change to the property.  I would like to see the plans.

Barlow – I am not uncomfortable with the proposed second story, but I am uncomfortable with the rear yard.  It would be on top of the house that is behind it.  I am also confused about the l983 variance that was granted and if another variance is required.  I think we should be giving a variance for the second story and rear yard deck.  I would like to see what is going in there.

Clements – The house behind me is on Palmer Ave. and it is a steep lot.  The top of their roof is below my property line and it is a two-story house.

Knight– I like the idea that the house is going to be improved.  This is the poorest house in the neighborhood.  If the house is improved that will be good.  There is still the question of safety.

Sapir – That is not an issue that we the board can address. That issue will be addressed at the time of the building permit application and when the permit is issued.

Knight – There are ways to make the building safe.  His father is an architect, so it is not out of the question.  I am not here to oppose this application. It is just an issue of safety.

Sapir –This is a five person Board.  In order for your application to be granted, you must have a majority vote in favor of the application. We already have one member absent and one member has already stated that he is uncomfortable voting tonight and a third member who has raised a concern.  It is my opinion that we should adjourn the hearing until next month.  You would stand a better chance, if we had the elevation plans.

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Sapir – (To Mr. Rubin and Mr. Knight) If you want to come back to the next meeting, you are welcome, but there is no need to come back to restate what you have said this evening.  Whatever you have stated this evening will remain part of the record and will be taken into consideration.

Mr. Knight and Mr. Rubin stated that they understood.

The Board and the applicant agreed to adjourn the hearing until next month (June 11 2003)

Hearing adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,

Janice Fuentes
ZBA Secretary