Long Beach ZBA denies variance for proposed apartment building

Rejects developer’s request to build rental units amid concerns over parking, density


The Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected a developer’s request for a variance to build a 10-unit apartment building on Park Avenue, amid concerns about a lack of parking and density voiced by residents and the Lancer Insurance Company next door to the site.

At its Dec. 21 meeting, the zoning board denied a request by developer Alan Pilevsky for an off-street parking and change of use variance to build on vacant property at 330 W. Park Ave., between Laurelton and Lafayette boulevards.

Pilevsky and representatives of West Park LLC, the firm looking to develop the 4,801-square-foot property, told the board at a November hearing that it was seeking approval for residential use in a zone that includes commercial and mixed-use professional buildings.

The property — wedged between a two-story apartment building that includes professional offices and a medical office adjacent to the Lancer Insurance building — had received approval in 2013 for a one-story office building that West Park had intended to develop and lease. The zoning approval included an off-street parking waiver for about six parking spaces.

“He had it on the market for rental and built to suit, and had no takers,” Howard Avrutine, an attorney representing Pilevsky, told the board in November.

West Park was seeking to build a two-story building with five apartments on each floor — five studios and five one-bedrooms — totaling 5,200 square feet. With rents ranging from $1,300 to $1,700, representatives of the developer said, the project would appeal to young professionals looking to live near the Long Island Rail Road, and would be more profitable than office or retail space. It would have little or no impact on the school district, and pay double the normal real estate taxes, representatives said.

“It provides for more individuals living there to patronize the local businesses, the restaurants, CVS and the medical uses that are on the block as well,” said Barry Nelson, a real estate expert. “Park Avenue, at this location, has parking on the north and south side and in the center of the median. It’s a small piece of property — there are some vacant and abandoned buildings in the vicinity.”

The zoning board’s chairman, Rocco Morelli, recused himself at the hearing, saying that his dental practice is next door to the property, in another building owned by Pilevksy.

Patrick Lenahan, the director of transportation for the Hauppauge-based VHB Engineering, completed a parking study in the area, and said the project would not have a significant impact. He said that the units would bring no more than 13 additional vehicles to an area with 388 parking spots.

“In this instance, we are also a walkable distance to the train station,” Lenahan said. “We have good bus service, and it is a very walkable community, and [has] a lot of available goods and services that would make this apartment building attractive to somebody that may not even have a car.”

A number of residents, some who do not live near the property, expressed support for the project, saying that it would fit in with the community and benefit the local economy. “This is a very tasteful property that they are adding to, and it will improve the area,” said Theresa Franzise, a real estate broker. “I also know the area. I’ve lived in Long Beach a long time, and it is also not a parking issue, not in that area. CVS has its own parking lot, and there aren’t many residents that park in that area there.”

Zoning board officials, however, questioned the timing of the parking study, which was conducted on a weekday in November between 10:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

A representative of Lancer Insurance and a number of residents strongly opposed the project, saying that it would negatively impact parking, and that the parcel was too small for an apartment building. “If anybody ever traveled eastbound on Park Avenue anytime before midnight, the left side of the lot between Lafayette and Laurelton is normally full,” said Walks resident Mike Delure. “Sometimes people are double-parked, waiting to get a spot either by CVS or the Laurel Diner — and that’s in the off season.”

Dina Fiore, a member of the group Long Beach Neighbors Against Overdevelopment, pointed out that Pilevsky — under a different corporation — is seeking tax breaks to convert a vacant building into apartments at another property on Park Avenue. “If . . . they cannot afford to develop [the other Park Avenue property] without a tax break,” Fiore told the board, “I have concerns about the financial ability of them developing [this] project.”

An attorney for Lancer, John Petrillo, explained that while Lancer does not own the parking mall in the center of Park Avenue, it is the largest employer in town, and had funded infrastructure upgrades there years ago that resulted in the elimination of city parking restrictions there.

“We recognize there are other citizens of Long Beach that use that lot all day long — we try to be good citizens,” Petrillo said, “but that lot is earmarked for our building.”

He added that the lot is often full, and that people illegally park at the vacant Sunrise Center property across the street at 367 W. Park Ave., a building owned by Lancer that it has been attempting to develop for 12 years. “We have not towed them — we are trying to be good neighbors,” Petrillo said. “The point is, those people can’t park in the middle mall because it’s always full.”

Nine years ago, he said, the board denied Lancer’s request for a variance for 28 parking spaces to build a 64-unit residential building to replace the Sunrise Center. “We believe that the granting of a variance to the current applicant will make it that much more difficult to obtain a parking variance in the future for the building at 367 W. Park Ave.,” Petrillo wrote in a subsequent letter to the board.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story in this week's Herald incorrectly referred to Dina Fiore as Roberta Fiore. We regret the error.