Hiding behind the letter of the law, Community Board 7 has unanimously refused to grant a waiver to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a two-story church in Queens.
The Mormons need three variances to exceed local zoning laws to build its church on 33rd Avenue. The board turned down the Mormons’ request without citing any proof the church would have a negative impact on Flushing.
The request will now go to Borough President Helen Marshall before landing on the desk of the city Board of Standards and Appeals, which has the final say.
At one point in a heated debate that lasted past 11 p.m., board member Nicholas Miglino took off the mask of impartiality and said, “You’re going to lose heavily here!”
He was reprimanded by the chairman for not following protocol. It became clear that rejection of this non-traditional church was a foregone conclusion.
There are 11 LDS churches in Queens and none of them have caused a problem for families living nearby. The proposed church would replace another LDS church a few blocks away on Sanford Avenue that has grown too small for its congregation. Bishop John Wu said the “programmatic needs” require a second floor.
One board member argued that granting the variances would establish a “precedent.” The precedent should be that the board examines each appeal on its merits. It was clear from the debate that the board did not do that.
This comes on the heels of a decision by the board last month to deny a Korean American permission to build a spa in the College Point Corporate Park. In this case, the borough president also rejected the spa, citing potential traffic congestion.
The community boards and Marshall should encourage Queens development. Unless an organization is likely to disrupt or change a neighborhood’s character, they should be willing to work with developers to resolve minor issues and not just act as a roadblock.
Unless the board can show that the other LDS churches have not been good neighbors or that the variances will have a negative impact on Flushing, Marshall and the BSA should reverse the CB 7’s decision.