Community Board looks to keep high-rise buildings off of Ridgewood’s shopping strips

Fresh Pond Road
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Community Board 5 (CB 5) is looking to prevent portions of Fresh Pond Road and Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood from becoming the new homes of towering buildings through a proposed downzoning of the area.

During CB 5’s monthly meeting on Oct. 11, at Christ the King High School in Middle Village, Walter Sanchez, chair of the Zoning and Land Use Committee, presented the full board with a pair of proposals designed to change the zoning laws to keep future buildings within “the character of the community,” he said.

“Right now the temperature of [the Department of] City Planning is, they’re willing to look at this,” Sanchez added. “Ridgewood is really hot, as you guys know, and we’re looking for you to vote yes on changing the zoning — downzoning — Fresh Pond Road between Myrtle Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue.”

The proposal looks to change the R5B zoning along Fresh Pond Road to an R4B zone; the R6B zone east of Fresh Pond Road to an R5B zone; and the R5B zoning west of Fresh Pond Road to an R4B zone.

“We think we’ve got a great shot at downzoning this area,” Sanchez said.

This would not put a complete end to developers creating larger buildings in the area, Sanchez noted. It would mean that a developer would need to approach CB 5 with their request and get a zoning variance approved before moving forward with the project.

Vincent Arcuri, chair of CB 5, had an issue with the language of the committee’s proposal, noting that if a catastrophic event were to hit Fresh Pond Road — like the wildfires spreading across California — then, under the proposed zoning rules, developers could not rebuild the buildings to the same height they are currently.

Board member Paul Kerzner, however, said that there is an exception to the zoning rule stating that “if you start construction within one year of the conflagration, you can put back what is there, even if it is not conforming.”

“We can’t come up with the perfect zoning; we’re not going to be able to do it. But if we do nothing, we’re going to have developers come in and take every square foot — which is fine, but it’s out of character with what has been built there,” Sanchez said. “This is our best option … we think this is the best way to take back Fresh Pond Road so that this is not happening.”

After a vote to table the vote on the proposal failed to pass, the full board voted 25-8 in favor of the Zoning and Land Use Committee’s proposal.

The committee also proposed creating a special purpose district on Myrtle Avenue between Wyckoff Avenue, Palmetto Street, Fresh Pond Road, and the adjacent side streets. The proposed zoning changes would interrupt the 17-story “Ridgewood Tower” planned for 54-27 Myrtle Ave., 336 and 350 St. Nicholas Ave., by putting a 35-foot cap on building height within the area.

The board voted 26-7 in favor of this proposal.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley threw her support behind the proposals earlier in the evening.