Last night, Feb. 19th, the Project Review Committee of the OB Planning Board met to check out a project proposed at 4766 Brighton Avenue. And after extensive questions and comments by board members, the applicant and audience members, the reviewers voted to send the project to the full board without approving or denying it. Without making a decision on the controversial project, they punted it to next month – entirely in their right to do so.
The full board next meets on Wednesday, March 5th. Whereupon, the applicant – Yale Jallos – will presumably return with promised changes to the design of the buildings and their placement.
Jallos is proposing to demolish the existing one-story, older house on a 5,000 square foot lot he and his family own, and build two 2-story homes alongside each other, one with a carport and one with a garage and roof terrace – but these could change.
Some neighbors were also present voicing their concerns and objections, and others their approval. Initially, Jallos tried to object to the OB Rag taking photos of his design or of the meeting, but was assured that it was a public meeting, therefore photos were okay.
Vice-chair Pete Ruscitti brought the meeting to order a few minutes after 6pm. Tom Gawronski, Board Chair, Drew Wilson, and Scott Therkalsen joined him in reviewing the one project on the agenda.
The applicant claims the unusually large OB plot is already divided into two lots, “Lot 7? and “Lot 8″ (side-by-side ) and his plan is to build a 2 story single family house with a covered carport, totaling 1,820 square feet on “Lot 7″. And on “Lot 8″ to build a second 2 story house, smaller – coming in at 1600 square feet -with a garage of 232 sqft. Either the house or the garage would have a roof terrace. That’s a FAR of .73 (Floor Area Ratio).
The designs for the two houses are very similar to the designs of the houses Jallos and his father, Henry, built on their former property just across the alley from the present Brighton Avenue property. Those two sit at 4773 and 4775 Long Branch.
The Jallos consider their designs “very modern” compared to the “traditional” designs of most home in OB. They plan drought-tolerant landscaping in front, the houses will be readied for solar, they want a six-foot fence also in front to help create a “court yard” effect; the design maxes out the side set-backs, in other words, the design includes the least distance between buildings allowed by the community design. There’s 6 feet between the buildings down the middle of the property and no windows. The younger Jallos said he was planning on living in the unit on the left in the design graphic.
Peppered by questions and comments from the Board and the audience, Jallos kept his composure and never seemed frustrated. He kept saying that he understood the objections, and he would do this or that to the design – but he had trouble appreciating that the basic message Board members were giving him was that his design was not compatible or in harmony with the OB Community Plan.
Some of the objections from the Board and audience were that the house on the east side of the lot would block out sun and light of the neighbors. Jallos said he could push that house back on the lot and alter the roof by slanting part of it. Actually, in compliance of the 30 foot height limit, he said his roofs come in at 23 or 24 feet.
Jallos said he also needed the 6 foot fence – the top 3 feet are partially open – due to the proximity of the church and its traffic and the drunks that walk by. When Jallos repeated that he planned on living in one of the houses, that prompted a response from one Board member who said that he voted for Jallos’ last project because that is what he said then also. Since then, Jallos and his father sold the two units they had built on Long Branch.
Some of the Board comments were that this project is “starkly different from the other residences on the street.” Tom Gawronski said even the City says the project “is inconsistent with the OB Precise Plan.” He said the materials are unacceptable. Gawronski finally stated:
“The Board is looking for a design in harmony with the neighborhood and this is not.”
The last time you were here you said your unique design added character to the community. Now there’s 2 of the same.
“There’s room for a couple of modern buildings along with traditional.”
A neighbor to the new proposed project, Lisa Shook had complained that there was not any updated City review available. She then proceeded to read a letter from another neighbor, Dixie Bryant, who could not make the meeting. Bryant’s letter spoke of how the original OB plan was written to keep this type of structure from being in OB. “It’s not compatible with the rest of the block,” Byrant said through Shook.
Bryant called the architecture “shoe-box prisons” – and there wasn’t adequate landscaping in the plans, and that the developer planned to cut down two large trees in the process.
In contrast, one young man in the small audience said that he appreciated the design. He had actually bid on the other Jallos very-similar property that they had sold on Long Branch. “I appreciate the variety,” he said and said it was “eclectic” and it had attracted him to the neighborhood.
Board member Wilson said that when he first saw the Jallos’ property on Long Branch, he said ‘what the hell is that?’ but now he has come to see that “variety is good,” but then said of the property in question before the Board “I don’t know if this is good.”
Jallos asked the Board for suggestions on how to improve his design. One member responded: “Step both houses back would help.” Other changes given were to avoid the blocking of sun and light to the neighbors.
Shook then added:
There’s a high ownership on the street. A lot of re-do’s on the street.
Claiming he didn’t want to be the “style police” Board member Ruscetti said:
Part of the OB Community Plan requires building things in harmony with what’s in or on the block. One thing that’s good is not maxing out the set-backs.
Another suggestion from Therkalsen:
“Put the second story all the way in the back, so as not to build canyons. There are ways to maximum the square footage without adversely affecting the streetscape.”
“We’ll scoot the second house back, try to angle the roof back.”
He claimed he can make the changes in the design by March 5th.
The reality is that it’s up to City staff, but it sounds like you want to work with us, work with community. The design has to be consistent with the community plan, and some of it is a judgement call.
Gawronski chimed in: he objected to the front facades, as they’re “too aggressive with respect to the street, too vertical.”
He continued, saying he could “live with” the house on the left with more of a set-back. But, he said, “The right one has impacts on the neighbors; the left one impacts the right. Can’t approve the right one.
The issue of the 6 foot fence was brought up. (Solid six foot fences are not allowed.) Therkelsen was complaining about it and suggested making it a proper 3 foot fence. Jallos responded:
I gotta have that fence with all the drunks walking by.
Lisa Shook responded: “No one else on that block has a six foot fence.”
“The Precise Plan is clear,” one board member added, “it values front yards.”
The back and forth between board members and the applicant continued for a few more minutes. It sounded to the Board that Jallos was willing to alter his design, push the right house back. So, a vote was taken of the remaining three Board members to send the proposed project to the full board without actually taking a stand on it. The project slated for 4766 Brighton will be back.