Real Estate

City apartment plan revised

By: DAN HEATH

PLATTSBURGH — A revised plan for an 88-unit apartment complex is being considered by the City of Plattsburgh Planning Board.

Lewis Heights would be 88 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments on 5 acres of the former Air Force Base Hospital property at the intersection of U.S. Avenue and New York Road.

Construction would be in four phases, as fueled by demand for apartments.

The project calls for two L-shaped buildings, with short breezeways at the corners.

The overall layout now resembles a large square, with almost a half-acre of green space in the interior. 

The plan was presented by Aaron Ovios of Robert M. Sutherland, PC, who said it has 55 percent green space and complies with density and parking requirements in the city code.

After two informational presentations to the board, the plan now has the building pushed to the north to increase the distance from neighboring residential properties, Ovios said. 

“We think it’s a nice fit that transitions from a business to a residential district,” he said. 

MEASUREMENT DEBATED

But the Planning Board tabled the project this week after an issue arose about what measurement is used to determine the length of the buildings, which defines how much separation is required between them.

Planning Board members said it should be the exterior distance from one end of the L-shaped building to the other, while Ovios said it should be a diagonal from the outermost exterior corners.

Using the diagonal measurement would require about 120 feet of separation, while the plan as presented had 102 feet of separation between the two buildings. 

ZONING VARIANCE

The project was presented to the City Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting in April. Zoning Board Chairman Ron Nolland said the board found the 102-foot separation between the two buildings was not a substantial difference and was acceptable and appropriate, so a variance was granted.

If the Planning Board measure of length is used, it would require 132 feet of separation.

CITY CODE WORDING

The property is being developed as a Planned Unit Development, which allows for more than one building on a parcel of at least 5 acres.

The city code lists guidelines for review and approval of Planned Unit Developments. It also states “the Planning Board may vary the requirements of the guidelines upon a showing that standards for obtaining an area variance have been met.”

Nolland said he interprets that section to mean that the Planning Board can be more lenient if an applicant has shown the ability to meet requirements for a variance, not more restrictive.

City Engineer Kevin Farrington and Planning Board Chair Joseph Rotella plan to consult with City Attorney John Clute as to its authority in the matter.

“We will follow that interpretation,” Rotella said.

Ovios said that if the Planning Board definition of length is used, one option is to subdivide the property into four lots, which would allow for four structures with 24 apartments each and even less separation between the buildings.

MYSTERY DEVELOPER

The developer is listed as Lewis Height LLC.

Planning Board Chairman Joseph Rotella asked Ovios the identity of the person behind that entity, but Ovios would say only that Lewis Heights LLC is a legally recognized entity and thus able to serve as applicant.

The applicant is being represented by local attorney Gary Favro, who has emphasized to the Press-Republican he is not the developer.

No one else spoke in favor of or in opposition to the plan at the meeting.

At the informational presentations, a number of neighbors expressed concerns about the size of the project, proximity to their neighborhood, traffic issues and the effect on their property values.

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com

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