Peter Fleming, chair of CB6's Land Use Committee
It was the members' task at last night's general meeting to discuss Whole Foods' claim that the site's unique physical conditions creates financial hardship and therefore, the food retailer should be granted the necessary variance.
The conditions cited by Whole Foods are:
* that the site is on a conglomeration of urban fill unsuitable for load bearing
* that they have to protect the site's landmarked Coignet building during any pile construction work
*that the site is low-lying and in a flood-prone area
*and that there is substantial grade change across the lot.
However, these claims were not discussed during last night's meeting or at last week's CB6 Land-Use Committee meeting. A few board members brought this up, but most of the others seemed more concerned about what type of heirloom tomatoes would be sold and how the parking lot would drain.
The board simply ignored the five findings* required for such a variance by the Board Of Standards And Appeals (BSA), which will ultimately decide on the matter.
Instead, CB6 members discussed superfluous concerns unrelated to the BSA variance application.
Had the Board seriously debated the validity of Whole Foods' assertions, they would have had to agree that the company created its own hardship. Whole Foods is claiming hardship seven years after assembling a building site by purchase and lease of several properties in a zoning district unsuitable for their purposes. They also:
* willingly purchased the polluted site in a dense industrial area
*next to a polluted canal into which human waste is discharged every time it rains heavily
*which lies in the 100 year flood plain and is therefore prone to flooding
*has a high water table
*has substantial grade changes across the lot
and most importantly...
*does not, by law, allow for Whole Foods' intended use.
The Board did discuss Whole Foods' insufficient traffic study, which covered only a limited area. And yes, the Board spoke briefly about the impact the store's construction may have on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal.
But CB6 failed to come up with any plausible reasons for why Whole Foods should be granted a variance, when the site could be used for an as-of-right development.
At the end, the Board voted 30 to 2 to approve the variance.
Of course, the Board is strictly advisory. The BSA will make the final determination.
* BSA's 5 Necessary Findings
1. Unique Physical Conditions
2.Reasonable return on the property
3.Altering essential character of the neighborhood
4.Self imposed hardship
5. Minimun variance for relief.