Houses of Worship Gain Exceptions From Strict Parking Rules – QNS.com

Houses of Worship Gain Exceptions From Strict Parking Rules

Local Councilmembers and Jewish community leaders announced a victory this week in their battle with the Department of City Planning to amend proposed zoning laws that would institute parking space minimum requirements for houses of worship.
The amendment added key concessions for certain religious institutions whose services do not need such additional parking.
The new law would now allow houses of worship an administrative waiver from the requirement for additional parking if 75% of the worshippers live within three-quarters of a mile from the house of worship and the institution does not have an on-site catering facility. Under the amendment, City Planning must approve an application for a waiver within 45 days of receipt or provide a written justification for denial.
"The parking problem around community facilities is real and warrants the attention it has been given by the department of City Planning," said Councilmember James F. Gennaro. "However, requiring anywhere from 10-50 parking spots for houses of worship whose congregants do not drive to their services, places an undue burden on these communities. Todays resolution aggressively addresses the problem of parking while respecting New Yorkers diverse religious practices."
The debate started when the Department of City Planning and the City Council on Land Use proposed a change to the current zoning law for communal facilities, particularly houses of worship and health facilities. The amendment proposed to alter parking requirements for houses from a former "fixed seating" method to a "seat-rated capacity."
In the law that is in place now, a house of worship must, by law, provide a certain number of parking spots in relation to the amount of permanent seats in the building. The new method would require community facilities to provide additional parking.
Members of Orthodox Jewish shuls, for example, are forbidden by their religious beliefs to drive on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, so the need for these parking facilities is moot. Obtaining land for parking lots for those who do not drive would appreciably raise the cost of building new houses of worship and, in some cases, make it fiscally untenable.
"The compromise reached by the Department of City Planning, Jewish leaders, Council colleagues and myself is one that we can all be proud of," Councilmember Weprin said. "The addition of this amendment makes the new, more-adequate parking regulations for community facilities, including houses of worship, adhere to the needs of all New Yorkers."
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the proposed zoning law changes with the new parking amendment. The Councils Land Use Committee public hearing on the proposal is tentatively scheduled for early August, after which it will go before the full Council for final approval.
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