Slack disagreed. “His contention that he will be adding 20 parking spots and therefore doing us a service is laughable,” she said. “This is not a matter of one parking space per condo, and a few extra on the street. This building would be taxing on an already difficult situation to the breaking point.”
Zoning board Trustee Angelo LaMonte acknowledged that voting in favor of the variances was a difficult decision. Still, he said, he heard from many residents who support the project, saying that the existing building, which is close to Long Beach Catholic Regional School, is known for drug deals, prostitution and other criminal activity.
“We had a couple of people come up who were supportive … you definitely had some people on West Penn Street who aren’t against it,” LaMonte said. “My rationale was that the building has been nothing but a headache to the community and Police Department. [Shokrian] did make a lot of concessions we were looking for by providing parking underneath [the building] and by reducing the top of the building.”
In July, residents called on Shokrian to improve the existing building or build townhouses, while board Chairman Rocco Morelli asked whether the height of the proposed building could be reduced by a floor. Shokrian said that those recommendations were not economically feasible, but some residents said they weren’t convinced.
Trustee Ray Ellmer said he voted against the project because it did not fit the character of the area. “I voted against it mainly because I believe that if the zoning board had held tough, the builder would have scaled it back to four stories,” he said.