STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — After the community and elected officials expressed opposition to proposed Department of City Planning (DCP) zoning amendments for three of Staten Island’s special districts, DCP has a new plan on the table.
DCP says the new zoning amendments would remove the need for homeowners to wade through some of the city’s tedious and expensive approval processes to make renovations to a home that exists in any of Staten Island’s three special districts — Special Hillsides Preservation District, Special Natural Area District and Special South Richmond Development District.
DCP also says the proposed changes will save time and money when homeowners make small renovations, like adding a new deck to their property. DCP announced a public scoping meeting will be Jan. 28, 2021 where the public can comment on the plan’s draft environmental review.
“Our current proposal is based on feedback from Staten Island communities, including requests to simplify the earlier version proposed in 2019. We actually had a presentation in April 2020 that outlined the differences between our current and previous proposals,” said Joe Marvilli, DCP deputy press secretary.
“Our current proposal grew out of an extensive outreach process, with more to come. DCP held 11 meetings with the working group, which includes all three Community Boards, elected officials, civic, environmental and architect groups. We also held two public webinars this past summer,” he added.
However, some area elected officials are not in favor of the amended zoning proposal.
“There does not seem to be any desire for any sort of environmental zoning changes outside of the de Blasio administration. City planning is sitting on several major projects, and their time could be better spent getting these construction jobs moving again,” said Councilman Joseph Borelli (R-South Shore) who was just appointed to the City Council Land-Use committee and Zoning subcommittee.
“City planning lost any goodwill from the South Shore when they tried to take away our backyards,” he added.
Said Councilman Steven Matteo (R-Mid-Island): “I’m not in favor of moving forward with these changes to this special district. We shouldn’t even be discussing this in the midst of an epidemic and a financial crisis.”
City Planning hashed out the current proposal after an initial amendment was met with controversy. That proposal — unanimously opposed by the members of Community Board 3 — was deemed an “intrusive land grab.” At the time, residents were outraged that the proposal included requirements that limited the amount of hard surface area that could be developed on site, and would have required some lots larger than one acre to preserve up to 25% of natural habitat on site.
“Staten Islanders can provide their input on the factors DCP should take a close look at for this plan, to curtail any potential adverse impacts. The testimony we receive will help us make sure that the plan is as beneficial as possible to the community and its environment,” said DCP in a written statement.
There will be two sessions via Zoom on Jan. 28. The 4 p.m. session will focus on Special Hillsides Preservation District and Special Natural Area District, and the 6 p.m. session will focus on the South Richmond Zoning District, said DCP.
“But we’ll accept comments on any part of this proposal at either session. For those who can’t make it, written comments will be accepted through March 1,” said Joe Marvilli, DCP deputy press secretary.
The dial in information will be posted on DCP’s NYC Engage website on the day of the meeting.
In July, Marisa Lago, DCP director, announced preliminary recommendations to amend rules pertaining to Special Hillsides Preservation District, Special Natural Area District and Special South Richmond Development District.
The proposed new rules aim to make home improvement projects less costly and burdensome by creating a more “predictable process” for small properties, under one acre. Homeowner applications to renovate their home, including adding a deck or a swimming pool, have, for decades, been extremely burdensome and costly in these special district areas, said DCP.
The agency has provided online guidebooks outlining existing rules and the reasons for updated proposals. The changes are meant to “clean up and streamline” decades-old zoning rules, which have resulted in tree-lined streets and the preservation of natural features that have come to define these districts.
“The changes outlined in these easy-to-read guidebooks will make home renovations more affordable for many families, while ensuring that development on larger and ecologically sensitive properties receives a higher level of review,” said Lago.
DCP said the proposed changes remove the need for City Planning Commission (CPC) approvals to be granted for sites under one acre in these special districts; homeowners will instead be required to get approval from the city’s Department of Buildings. DCP says the change will help individual homeowners save time and money, while maintaining a strong public review process for larger developments and sites.
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