The village board is considering the most significant changes to its zoning code since the early 1990s in an effort to make Valley Stream more business-friendly. A public hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for Monday night.
The zoning changes were drafted by a team of six current and former village officials, headed by Building Superintendent Thomas McAleer. The new code would ease some restrictions that automatically send prospective new businesses to the Board of Zoning Appeals, while allowing certain approvals to be granted by the village’s Building Department. For example, a new restaurant opening on Rockaway Avenue now needs to go to the BZA for a parking variance. These variances are automatically granted because no downtown business has the necessary parking to meet the code. Instead, businesses share street parking and municipal lots.
One change would allow restaurants with seating for 50 or fewer people to bypass the BZA to acquire a parking variance, a process that typically takes at least three months. Tom Viani, the village’s chief building inspector, said this would be most beneficial to small restaurants like pizzerias, Chinese food places or coffee shops that have only a few tables. “They would have to comply, obviously, with all of the codes,” Viani said, “but it wouldn’t trigger all of the bells and whistles as a full-blown restaurant.”
Viani explained that a three-month wait can be discouraging for prospective business owners, who have to pay rent to secure a space but can’t open their doors to start making any income.
Vinny Ang, the former village clerk and current research assistant to the Board of Trustees, said he is certain that Valley Stream has lost out on its share of new businesses over the years because of some of these time-consuming and cost-prohibitive obstacles. “You’re talking a lot of money and a lot of time,” he said. “It’s just easier to open up your business in another place.”