Dec. 15, 2016 By Christian Murray
The developers of the Paragon paint building who need a zoning variance in order to construct a 28-story tower on Vernon Boulevard may well struggle to get it, according to the executive director of the Board of Standards and Appeals.
The developers, Simon Baron Development and CRE Development, must adhere to several conditions in order to be granted a variance—one of which is that the structure does not alter the character of the neighborhood.
“We told them from a staff point of view that they would have a difficult time making that argument,” Ryan Singer, the BSA executive director said. “There are not a lot of buildings in that area that are that height.”
Singer said that his staffers told the developers that their case on this point “seemed like a stretch.”
The developers are continuing to press ahead with their BSA application. On Wednesday, Brent Carrier, of CRE Development, said that they are still on track. He said that they will not be changing the design in any significant way. He wouldn’t comment beyond this, other than saying it is “an exciting project.”
The plan is complex and would lead to the construction of 344 rental apartments and a half-acre public park that would open on Anable Basin. It features the controversial 28-story tower, which would be attached to a revamped Paragon Paint building and set back 50 feet from Vernon Boulevard.
The plan would also consist of two other buildings that would be 13 stories and eight stories, respectively.
The application has been slow and drawn out.
The developers filed for their variance in October 2015. Typically such permits are ruled on much faster but there have been delays, as BSA staffers have been taken their time to review it and the developers have been slow to address the BSA’s feedback, Singer said.
The developers had discussed the concept of getting the site rezoned, as opposed to going through the BSA process where they must meet the conditions that it will “not altering the character of the neighborhood,” Singer said.
However, a rezoning is a much more lengthy process that involves more governmental layers—including the approval of the local councilman who can essentially veto the plan. With a BSA application, the decision is made by the board, with the local community board providing an advisory opinion.
“We have told them that they are taking a risk [going for a BSA variance],” Singer said, although he noted that the BSA staff do not make the decision. He said it is up to the 5-member board.
Community Board 2 opposed the project in February, claiming that it did not fit the character of the area.
Former CB2 Chair Patrick O’Brien said at the time that he was concerned with the size and scale of the 28-story building, given the low rise nature of Vernon Boulevard.
O’Brien said that there had been efforts through a number of rezonings in the 1990s and early 2000s to keep the buildings low rise on Vernon Boulevard.
“Bulk and density remains a concern for us,” O’Brien said.“Our view on height is that it should be toward the water, and I mean the [East] River, not the basin.”