CB 7 board correct in denying variances to church

The Auburndale Improvement Association Inc., which represents more than 600 families in the Auburndale, Flushing and western Bayside communities, and five other civic associations testified at the January Community Board 7 public hearing against the request by Mormon church officials for three variances in order to construct a church at 145-15 33rd Ave.

CB 7 devoted the majority of the meeting’s time to listening to and deliberating on the applicants’ request for the three variances. The applicants gave a lengthy presentation first, followed by testimony from the public. They heard church members’ urgings to grant the variances, civic organizations in opposition to the variances and neighbors near the site who objected to the size of the proposed project.

Board members asked many questions during the hearing. These volunteers listened to all points of view carefully, patiently and fairly before voting unanimously to deny the three variances.

The Feb. 9-15 TimesLedger Newspapers editorial, “Fairness a Stranger at CB 7,” missed the point. I did not hear anyone who objected to a church being constructed. The sticking point was that the proposed church would be twice the size as allowed as of right on the site in an R2A residential zone. That means a 23,000-square-foot behemoth with a 93-foot spire in this case.

If you do not think that will change a neighborhood’s character nor affect residents’ quality of life, you are mistaken. If you believe these variances constitute a minor issue, you obviously are not in touch with zoning issues that are at the forefront of our communities’ concerns. The granting of this request would set a precedent that would encourage inappropriate development of community facilities in our neighborhoods.

A variance is a privilege granted by the city Board of Standards and Appeals. Five conditions must be met in order for a variance to be granted. Granted variances must meet the minimum needs of an applicant. Obviously, the CB 7 board members believed the three variances requested did not satisfy those conditions.

The Mormon church owns a church and property on Sanford Avenue in an R7-1 zone, where construction of the church it desires could be completed without the need for variances. We do not understand why it purchased the site on 33rd Avenue for almost $3 million, according to our understanding, when it must have realized it would have to seek at least three variances to build the desired church.

We do not doubt the sincerity of this church nor its desire to do good deeds, but when anyone comes into an established community to develop a site, they must respect the character of that community and try to meet the zoning requirements of that area. They must think of their neighbors as well as their own desires.

We hope this church reconsiders the size of the structure it wishes to build on the 33rd Avenue site. CB 7 was thinking of all the residents of the area by turning down the request for the three variances unanimously.

Henry Euler

First Vice President

Auburndale Improvement Association


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