Zoning Board decision suddenly not so Crystal Clear

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | The Crystal Clear property on New Suffolk Road.

More than eight months after Southold’s Zoning Board of Appeals granted variances to Crystal Clear Cleaning Corp. for a new office and van depot on New Suffolk Road, the board will reopen a public hearing on the matter next week, citing the receipt of new information.

Planning board chairman Don Wilcenski requested the ZBA review by letter in February, after a neighbor wrote asking why the ZBA never looked into the fact that, once the project received all its board approvals, there would be two principal uses on a half-acre lot. According to town code, one acre is required for each use on properties in the LB Zoning District.

The property includes a three-bay garage and a house and, according to ZBA documents, has pre-existing certificates of occupancy from 1979 for a wood frame office, a one-car garage and an accessory structure used for storage of building materials and equipment. The office is currently being used as a residence.

Attorney Patricia Moore, who represents Crystal Clear owners David and Lisa Cifarelli, is crying foul.

In an April 18 letter to the board Ms. Moore said only the building department can send matters to the ZBA for review. She added that since the ZBA originally approved variances for the project on Aug. 18, the 30-day window in which they could reverse their decision has passed.

“The statute of limitations has expired,” she wrote. “Your decision to reopen this hearing based upon community opposition undermines the integrity and finality of all Zoning Board decisions.”

Back in August, the ZBA weighed in only on three setback variances for the project — not on any area variances related to an intensification of use at the site.

But in his letter, Mr. Wilcenski asked why two principal uses are being allowed on a parcel that’s only a quarter of the minimum size required for those uses.

“Can two principal uses be allowed on an undersized lot in an LB zone?” he wrote. “The townwide implications of this interpretation would include the zoning status of any property where there are two principal uses on an undersized lot.”

Adding to the complexity of the matter, planning director Heather Lanza maintains that the certificate of occupancy on file for an office is for the wood frame building, which must be the house, since the three-bay garage is cement.

The Cifarellis’ initial zoning board application involved adding a second story to the garage — not to the wood frame building — to accommodate the office. The ZBA granted the variances with little comment, since the setbacks that were before them were pre-existing and the garage was built before current zoning was in place. The board didn’t discuss intensification of the property’s use.

Ms. Lanza said Tuesday that through Mr. Wilcenski’s letter the Planning Board was simply asking the ZBA for an interpretation of the town code, since, as a quasi-judicial body, the zoning board is the only authority in town, other than the building inspector, that can do so.

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