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Minutes of the General Membership Meeting of the Westmoreland Association
September 17, 2007
The meeting was called to order at 8:00 P.M. by President Walter Mugdan. Reading
of the minutes was waived. Upon motion, duly seconded, the minutes were
approved. Walter Mugdan noted that the minutes were available for review on the
Westmoreland website. Treasurer Gary Savage gave the Treasurer’s Report
indicating that the balance-on-hand was $16,519.20 as of September 17, 2007. A
motion was made to accept the Treasurer’s report. The motion was seconded and
the report was unanimously approved.
43-11 Little Neck Parkway – Owner violated both the local zoning laws and the deed restrictions (Covenants) by erecting a large commercial tent in the backyard in order to store rugs and carpets for his business. Walter talked to the owner and explained the violations. The owner agreed to remove both the tent and the merchandise. The backyard was cleared within two weeks.
Another house in the neighborhood had a “Pilates Studio” sign in the front of the house, also suggesting a commercial use of the property in violation of our Covenants. Walter spoke to the owner advising that commercial uses are only permitted in certain areas designated under both the Covenants and the zoning as commercial or business districts. The sign was removed. (Under the Covenants, the properties facing Northern Boulevard, and the block at the corner of 39th Avenue and Little Neck Parkway are designated as business districts. The latter block is, however, restricted to non-commercial, residential uses under the City zoning rules. The city zoning designation trumps the covenant’s because it is more restrictive.)
City Councilman Tony Avella has introduced several pieces of legislation that would provide some checks and balances on the authority of the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). The BSA can grant variances from zoning requirements, and it has been our experience that it almost never turns down a variance request, even when the community is strongly opposed. Formerly, appeals from BSA decisions could be taken to the City Board of Estimate, which was made up of elected officials. The Board of Estimate was abolished in the early 1990s, and since then there is no appeal from a BSA decision to any elected body. All BSA members are currently appointed by the Mayor. Councilman Avella’s proposed legislation would increase the size of the BSA, with the City Council and Borough Presidents appointing some of the members. It would also authorize appeals from BSA decisions to the City Council, a body made up of elected (not appointed) officials. Walter testified at several hearings in support of the proposed legislation. The testimony is posted on our website.
Expansion of house on corner of Morgan and 41st Avenue – neighbors report that a newly constructed portion of the house extends too close to the front of the property – 15 feet instead of the 20 feet required by our Covenants, and now also required by the R2A zoning rules. The owners have been notified and are rethinking their plans.
[Note: The new R2A zone requires a minimum 15-foot set back. However, if the adjacent houses are set back more than 15 feet, the new house must also be set back to match the adjacent houses. Since houses in Westmoreland are required under the Covenants to be set back at least 20 feet, this means that the NYC zoning rules now effectively require the same setback as our Covenants. This is another, unanticipated advantage of the R2A zone.]
There was discussion about how we can help ensure that homeowners and architects are aware of the Westmoreland Covenants? Answer: 1. About two years ago we sent, by Certified Mail copies of our covenant to all title search firms operating in the NYC area. The postal return receipts confirm that all the companies received our mailing. 2. At least once a year we include a copy of the Covenants with our meeting notice (typically this is done with the mailing for the March meeting).
In addition to the above-referenced legislation, Councilman Avella has also introduced legislation to require the Buildings Department to enforce Covenants such as ours, under appropriate circumstances.
Reconstruction of sewers and water mains in parts of the neighborhood will be starting soon. Among other benefits, this work should rectify the drainage problems that have plagued 41st Road for several years. The problem was caused by the construction of a private road that passes through from 41st Road to Little Neck Parkway. The private road has a ridge at its entrance that blocks the flow of rain water and causes yards and basements of homes to be flooded.
The playground on 42nd Ave. and Little Neck Parkway – the bathrooms are not kept clean. The Parks Department was not able to keep an attendant there during the entire summer.
Railroad Whistle problem – Tom Lloyd, a member of Community Board 11, reported on the issue. Two proposals have been made that would each allow the LIRR to reduce the volume and duration of whistles sounded as trains approach the Little Neck grade crossing. One proposal is to install full length “quad gates” at the grade crossing. Bernard Haber of CB-11 has proposed as an alternative the use of concrete barriers on Little Neck Parkway immediately north and south of the crossing. The barriers would prevent vehicular traffic from going around the current safety gates when they are down. The new barriers would be less expensive to install than new safety gates and could be done quickly. However, there is a concern about the impact on the neighborhood. Walter said we would try to have speakers at our November 19 meeting who can describe the pros and cons of these two proposals in greater detail. The Westmoreland Association will, at that time, consider whether to support one or the other of these proposals.
The next meeting is November 19, 2007.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 PM.
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