Vintage Bowling Alley Finds New Life


The (Zoning) Board of Adjustment met on Wednesday, December 6 to hear from many applicants in need of special permissions or variances. A common request deals with yard setback requirements, which are laid out in the city ordinances. If a family wants to build a rear deck, for example, that will come closer to the property line than what is allowed, they would need a variance from the BOA. The Board examines these applications carefully, weighing the potential costs and benefits to the surrounding area.

Neli Rivera, represented by Dominic Iannarella, Esq., came before the board seeking permission to build a two-bedroom apartment and deck on the first floor where a one-bedroom apartment currently exists. Iannarella testified that the building is currently non-conforming, with the second floor overhanging the first and supported by stilts. The proposed addition would bring the first floor flush with the second and would not expand the footprint of the house. A neighbor testified to flooding issues from the rear of that property, going back to its previous owner. Commissioner Sochon motioned to approve the application with the stipulation that five-inch gutters be used to catch and redirect as much water as possible to the front of the house and the application was granted.

Skender Kokaj, represented by Gary Cohen, Esq., was seeking approval to build a two-story addition on the rear of a one-story house on Mountainside Terrace. Cohen testified that it’s a small house in need of additional space and that the proposed changes would not infringe on the setback requirements. This application was approved in 2018, Cohen said, but the construction was never done and the homeowner was told that a new application was now needed.

The architect involved in the project also testified, saying that the property is already non-conforming in that it is situated very close to the front property lines because of the lot’s non-conforming size. He said that even with the eight-foot addition in the rear, the property would still comply with the rear yard setback. He further added that many other homes in that neighborhood had similar second-story additions so this upgrade would bring the small house more into line with them. The application was easily granted approval by unanimous vote.

Mohammad Jubran’s application for a full bathroom in his basement had previously been denied by the BOA in July and attorney Gary Cohen testified to significant alterations. He also said that the proposed changes to the attic, which were part of the original application, had not been addressed. The proposed three-fixture bathroom in the basement has been changed to two fixtures (sink and toilet) and an exit from the basement is being permanently sealed to prevent any possibility of the basement being used as a separate dwelling. “This is not a repetition of the same application,” he said, as he attempted to convince the BOA to hear their case, despite it having previously been denied.

Commissioner Molner motioned not to hear the application, saying that the application did not meet the standard of being significantly different from the original. Cohen reminded the board that they had not heard the issue of the attic and he was granted permission to present only that piece. Jubran said that he owns a two-story house where his parents live in the first-floor apartment and tenants live in the second-floor apartment. Jubran wanted relief from an ordinance that requires the attic to be connected to the floor directly below it so that his parents could use it for storage. Molner motioned to approve the use of the attic by the first floor occupants and it was unanimously approved.

Brian Chewcaskie, Esq., the attorney for S&J Sunny Realty IV LLC, testified on behalf of his client at 2 Broad Street, where an existing warehouse stands. This applicant wants to build storage racks outside to hold lumber and PVC that will be sold as part of the existing business. Although storage racks are permitted, the storage of building materials is not, thus requiring a variance. Gino Changuan, who owns the building, testified that there is no retail shopping on the site and that only three trucks are needed for deliveries. Changuan said that they currently ship directly from vendors to customers but that the additional storage would allow them to expand their business. The board approved it with a few stipulations meant to protect the appearance of the area that faces Broad Street.

An application for 245-247 Parker Avenue had been approved in 2018, attorney Chewcaskie said, but the original architect passed away and in the passing years, some codes had changed that rendered the original plans in need of updating.

Jose Carballo, the new architect, created an updated design to address all code issues and accessibility requirements. He found, for instance, that the original plans did not include an elevator, and only one of the three ground-floor apartments was sized and laid out in a way that made it wheelchair accessible. Carballo said that the building now has an elevator and 14 fully accessible units. The new plans also include a mailroom and a fitness center. It was approved with the stipulations that the fitness center and parking would be limited to residents only.

The final application of the night, for MJG-MAR Realty, LLC, had previously been heard and denied. The commissioners agreed that there were substantial enough changes to allow the application to proceed. Michael Capo, the architect for this application, talked about the building on Lakeview Avenue that was once Garden Palace Bowling Alley. It is now being used as a wholesale auto parts facility. Previous plans included a small retail portion but that has been removed as a result of the initial denial.

Emanuel Marcus, the business owner, answered questions from attorney Mark Leibman. Marcus agreed to post a sign indicating that the business is “not open to the public.” His customers are repair shops and businesses with fleets of vehicles. He deals with more complicated parts, he said, like emission sensors.

Kathryn Gregory is the planner on this project, and she testified that the property is surrounded by several different zones representing various uses and a mixture of old and new buildings. The applicant was seeking a use variance, to permit wholesale use where a bowling alley once operated. Gregory referred to the project as “an adaptive reuse of an existing site that has existing infrastructure” and referred to the Master Plan’s goal of reusing existing structures. She added that she did not believe that there would be any substantial negatives to the neighborhood.

Commissioners Eramo and Molner asked a few questions and Vice Chairman Gerard Scorziello motioned to approve with a few stipulations and the application was granted by unanimous vote.

You can watch the full meeting HERE.

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