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The city approved an application Tuesday that will allow the Mormon Church to build a chapel that exceeds zoning regulations on 33rd Avenue in Flushing, much to the dismay of civic organizations and Community Board 7.
The city Board of Standards and Appeals voted unanimously to approve the application, which would allow the chapel to have a larger floor area than what is allowed in the zoning code, according to the BSA.
“The civic world is disappointed by the BSA’s decision, and we will wait for the report to decide what our next move will be,” said Paul Graziano, a zoning expert who has called into question the church’s claim it requires more space than would be allowed by law to effectively operate.
Graziano worked with several civics in the Flushing area that were opposed to the church’s plan.
Representatives from the church, however, were pleased with the board’s decision, but did not have a timetable for breaking ground on the project.
“We are very happy, of course,” said David Duffy, head of 11 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregations in Queens. “There has been some adjustments and responses to the neighbors’ concerns.”
The process of applying for the variances began early this year, when the church’s requests were recommended for denial by Community Board 7 and Borough President Helen Marshall, who said the large size of the building would be out of character with the neighborhood and set a precedent in conflict with a 2009 rezoning of the area designed to promote detached, single-family homes.
CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty was also disappointed at the resolution, although he applauded the church for coming in to talk with board members.
“I’m glad they kept up the relationship,” Kelty said.
But Kelty and the board also expressed concern about what they called changing requirements the church stated as reasons why it needed extra space.
“They played games with the numbers,” Kelty said.
In a June 26 letter to the BSA sent ahead of the ruling, Kelty and the board called into question several justifications the church used in public hearings and applications to the board.
“I’m disappointed because we gave BSA the opportunity to go in and question the numbers,” Kelty said.
But Duffy countered that the church was as flexible as it could have been in accommodating the community.
“I think it’s a win-win,” he said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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