Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fieldston master plan delayed by CB#8

By Candice M. Giove

Citing concerns over inconsistent language and insufficient review time, Community Board #8's Land Use Chairman Charles Moerdler implored the Landmarks Preservation Commission to delay the agency's hearing for a couple of months.
The committee passed a resolution requesting an extension at their September 4 meeting in order to allow the Fieldston Property Owners' Association sufficient review time and to allow the board to consider those views because copies of the latest Fieldston Master Plan were received only ten days prior to the meeting.
Dr. Marc Odrich, FPOA president, said that the organization hired a top-notch consulting firm to comb through the entire plan on behalf of the homeowners. "Unfortunately, as this in-depth review has not yet been completed and we are in the midst of active discussion with our consultant group, FPOA is not prepared to share these views at this time," he said, adding that their own review would probably not be ready for the LPC's September 24 hearing.
Board members said that they would like to hear from the FPOA before submitting their own comments.
While the document was available for only a short time, Moerdler picked out several sections from its text that he believes need another look.
One section he said illustrated a cumbersome chain of agency approvals before a landmark application is reviewed. Residents must visit the City Planning Commission to meet Special Natural Area District requirements, receive an approval letter from the FPOA, and visit the Department of Buildings as well.
"A long time ago under a different administration, government took an oath in trying to create one-stop shopping in government interests. In my view this creates a proliferation of agencies," Moerdler said, asking for interagency action.
Even if homeowners plan an interior modification, they now must visit the LPC before the Department of Buildings because often interior changes result in exterior ones.
"For example, sometimes someone's putting in a new kitchen or something that you think is purely interior but in the back they're punching a new vent or they're doing something else that requires exterior change," explained Mark Silberman, LPC counsel. If the work does not alter anything, the LPC provides a certificate of no effect.
Moerdler also questioned the language used regarding additions. The Fieldston Master Plan allows the staff to approve "modest" additions of up to 25 percent without public review, but to incorporate additions made prior to designation in that calculation.
"There are many buildings you obviously recognize within the Fieldston area where over a period of decades additions have been made and the effect of saying those count into the calculations--and that's what this language seems to imply--counting those into it will negate the possibility of it ever applying at all because in some cases additions made 30 years ago, 40 years ago or 10 years ago swallow the entire percentage of this ability," Moerdler said.
LPC officials said the language reflected a desire to prevent homeowners' making several 25 percent additions through separate applications.
In light of the many comments and the lack of FPOA review, Councilman G. Oliver Koppell asked the Commission also to reconsider its hearing date. "To rush now doesn't seem to make much sense," he said.