Whole Foods has been calendared for a hearing at the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, concerning their request for a use variance (§72-21) to permit a food store (UG6), contrary to use regulations in an M2-1 zoning district, at the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street on the Gowanus Canal.
Currently, New York City's Zoning Resolution only allows Whole Foods to build a 10,000s.f. store on the site, which is located in an M2-1 zoning district. The proposed Gowanus store would be 56,000 s.f.
In applying for a variance, Whole Foods is claiming that full compliance with zoning regulations is not possible in order to realize a reasonable economic return on their property. The Board Of Standards And Appeals "must determine, in granting a variance, that each and every one of five findings identified in Section 72-21 are met. The five findings are excerpted from the Zoning Resolution below:
(a) that there are unique physical conditions …. inherent in the particular zoning lot; and that, as a result of such unique physical conditions, practical difficulties or unnecessary hardship arise;
(b) that because of such physical conditions there is no reasonable possibility that the development of the zoning lot will bring a reasonable return … this finding shall not be required for the granting of a variance to a non-profit organization;
(c) that the variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood;
(d) that the practical difficulties or unnecessary hardship claimed as a ground for a variance have not been created by the owner;
(e) …the variance, if granted, is the minimum variance necessary to afford relief.
It will be fascinating to see how the BSA will rule on this matter. The validity of Whole Foods' claims of hardship seven years after assembling a building site by purchase and lease of several properties in a zoning district unsuitable for their purposes, are tenuous at best. Whole Foods 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.
Written testimony by members of the community on this matter can be submitted to the BSA until December 9.
Please address to: Chair of the BSA, Meenakshi Srinivasan.
The letters may be submitted via regular mail to:
40 Rector Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10006
or emailed you letter to the executive director at firstname.lastname@example.org