The following letter to the editor was sent by Harrison resident Emil Toso.
The Belmont Administration is proposing to change the lot size requirement for a B zone (two-family) home from 5,000 sq. ft. to 6,000 sq. ft.
There are 1,500 two-family properties and 5,000 one-family properties in Harrison. Today a one-family 5,000 sq. ft. lot is valued at about $330,000 and a same size two-family lot is valued at about $400,000. Almost all of the 1,500 B zoned properties will not meet the new requirement of 6,000 sq. ft.
Mr. Frank Fish, the Master Plan consultant hired by the town, in his public update to the Town Board on Aug. 23 and the Belmont Administration repeatedly and emphatically assure us that our present homes and properties will be “grandfathered in” and thus, will not immediately be subject to the new law. Meaning, basically, that we can keep our present home until it rots and falls to the ground or is substantially destroyed by disaster or fire.
The important facts are, that the moment this new law (requirement ) is passed, each B zone lot will revert down to the value of a one-family lot and it will lose $70,000 in value, as here forth only a one-family house can be built on that lot, and now the present house will be classified by town zoning laws as nonconforming (illegal by present law). There is no such phrase as “grandfathered in” in the Harrison Zoning Ordinance. It is nothing more than a guise (a sales pitch gimmick). As a nonconforming property we will now be subject to Zoning Laws 235, 49 thru 55 (can be viewed thru town internetsite). Law 235, 52 reads in part, “ no nonconforming use, building, or structure can be expanded, enlarged, extended, reconstructed, structurally altered or restored”. This basically means that should you, or any future owner want to add a room, or redesign your home or second unit for any reason in the future, you cannot, because the above zoning laws forbid it!! In addition, because of the rezoning restrictions, your entire property will be more difficult to sell, and it will lose yet further value. Also realize, because your property value is now reduced, your mortgage equity to debt ratio will also decrease and some mortgaged properties may now find themselves underwater, and unable to be refinanced, and some owners may be asked by their lender to pay down their mortgage debt.
The Town Board “says” the reason for this change in zoning is because one of the new two-family designs “side by side”, projects two driveways into the street requiring two curb cut outs, leaving three small pieces of curb, each too short to accommodate an automobile street parking space. They say that this will exacerbate the already present shortage of street parking in some B zoned areas, consequently, their proposal and solution to this problem, is to phase out all B zone properties.
The immediate solutions that strike me are:
- To create a law allowing only one street cutout per 50 ft. of curb frontage, and that cutout not to exceed 19 ft. in length. That would leave 31 ft. of curb enoughfor two spaces, which is what we have had with over and under houses, previous to this new house design. The town zoning presently regulates commercial property curb cutouts that way, why not do the same for residential properties?
- Presently the zoning laws require two driveway parking spaces and two garage spaces for two-family houses. Since most new houses are deeper, up to 40 and 45 ft. you could require those houses to have four garage spaces and two driveway spaces.
- Would be for the town to purchase lots as they become available, in those parking problem neighborhoods and construct those lots to allow only passenger car parking. The town has, for the last 30 and more years, provided many apartment house and business property owners (business landlords) with 280 off street parking spaces, at a cost to the taxpayers of about $1 million dollars per year and another 450 spaces for the resident commuters at an additional cost of $1.3 million dollars per year, according to my calculations.
Why is it, the town board can’t find reason worthy enough to spend taxpayer money for the good of the B zone properties, as they do for the apartment house and business landlords? We are alsotaxpayers, but somehow we don’t seem to command the same priority. I am sure the town board rationalizes that their decision is beneficial to all 7,000 Harrison taxpayers. If that’s true, then use all the taxpayers monies to reimburse us for our losses, let’s start our negotiations at about $100,000 per lot. Certainly there are many more solutions, ideas and options out there, but the town board and it’s many back seat drivers seem to only want to focus on those options that call for the eradication of the B zone properties. Why?
The B zone two-family house, (because of its rental unit) represents affordable housing to many young blue collar families, and to the many more long term owners; it represents the equity of a life’s work. Since 1925 when the first zoning ordinance was written, Harrison welcomed and encouraged the development of these lots to the point of full development today.
Presently, these lots are in such demand that developers are removing the small, older, still useable homes to replace them with new larger modern two-family houses. This replacement satisfies a trend in all America, for more quality indoor living space, and enhances the quality of the neighborhood and pays significantly more taxes than the previous house. So Town Board what is your real problem?
So, fellow B zone property owner, at some future date the town board in order to make this change legal, will have to hold a public hearing on this zoning change and if you believe, as I do, that this town is attempting to steal our property value for whatever their reason, then we must attend that meeting and make ourselves heard.