Last night, the OB Planning Board approved the project at 4746 Brighton Avenue – a project that involves the demolition of an older, existing house on a large lot and the construction of two 2-story houses – that several Board members described as “incompatible” with the surrounding neighborhood and with the new Precise Plan.
Yet, by a vote of 7 to 4, the Board approved the project.
After the developer’s adult son Yale Jallos had made his presentation to the full board, audience members and then Board members had their say. Jallos had already made one pitch at the Board’s subcommittee, the Project Review committee, on Feb. 19th, and they had simply punted the project for the entire Board to consider without approving or denying it.
It was a full house in the audience as I counted 30 people in the chairs.
Last night Jallos claimed that he had modified his plans from suggestions and requirements that the review committee had pushed in order it to be more friendly to neighbors. An issue was the original design blocking sunlight getting to back units on the adjoining property. Another issue Board members focused on was the proposed 6 foot front fence.
Jallos said his new design – although he didn’t have any new visuals – showed that one house had been stepped back on the lot, and the entire second story on one of the houses had also been stepped back nearly 5 feet. He promised “more sunlight coming from the east and more sunlight coming from the west.” His design, Jallos said, “has a lot of soul,” and that the design “is not trying to look like things from history.”
Both houses will have 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths on the 5,000 square foot lot, which will now have two tall houses side by side. Jallos – trying hard to be liked – said he could have designed 4 houses but only is doing two. Plus, he reminded the Board, his houses are just under the 30 foot height limit and are within the FAR. He defended his 6 foot fence “to keep the drunks out” as the first 3 feet is solid, and the other 3 feet 50% solid.
The building designs are of a distinctly “modern” type with glass, aluminum and stucco materials producing two narrow houses, with very little distance between them and both presented at the street.
Jallos said he planned to live in one of the units. One Board member recalled that when Jallos appeared before the Board a while ago proposing two other similarly-designed 2 story houses which were approved, he also told them then that he planned to live in one of them. Both were sold however later after construction – and obviously he wasn’t living in any of them.
Several members of the audience questioned Jallos about the lack of compatibility with the surrounding homes, plus one couple who came in together each got up and said they liked the design.
Neighbor Lisa Shook read Dixie Brien’s letter – also read at the Project review meeting – that asserted that the design was not compatible with the rest of the block, and called them “shoe-box prisons” and complained that two large trees were torn down to make way for the project. Brien is an adjoining property owner.
Shook also read another letter from Kevin, a property owner, who questioned whether designed two 2-storied houses only 6 feet apart would take away sunlight from neighbors. “This building is not by a preservationist,” the letter stated, and also claimed that “this builder said he lived in the last one” and was only saying this to garner support for his project. Kevin also said in his letter that “to keep drunks out is a shallow reason for the 6 foot fence,” and that the only problems on the block from drunks are during the OB Street Fair and July 4th.
Lisa also stated her opposition to the project. She presented the Board with a folder full of photos showing how her current unit will be affected by the new project and is being affected by Jallos’ earlier built project – which is just across the alley from the new one. Referring to sunlight, she said “Ill lose everything.”
To this, Jallos retorted, “You’ll be looking at bamboo,” as he had proposed adding a bamboo patch to this design.
Shook said that she had walked her block and “out of 16 homes on the block, 12 have re-modeled,” but none of them have attempted to install their second units right at the street, and instead had placed them behind the first house.
Another neighbor asked Jallos about this, but he did not answer directly.
Then it became time for Board comments and nearly every member made some kind of statement – much of the latter statements echoing the earlier ones.
It was up to Board member Scott Therkalsen to make the argument that Jallos’ designs were not compatible with the neighborhood nor with the OB Precise Plan.
“I like to see you,” Scott said directing his comments at Jallos, “working with the community and making changes.” And then he said:
I drove around that block, talked to neighbors, went back to the Precise Plan. The Plan ensures that scale and bulk are compatible.
Therkalsen cited the Precise Plan as recommending against large areas of blank surface – as these designs show – and that it calls for minimizing abrupt changes – which the design does not do. “New development should take designs from those already developed,” he said, and that this building should reflect current design standards. Scott said he stood in front of Jallos’ other houses, and now he must oppose this project.
Other Board members were conflicted on the project they said. Then it was Pete Ruscitti’s turn. “It comes down to a judgment call,” he said. “The applicant has met the requirements of the city.” The 1975 Precise Plan, he said, uses the adjective “excessive” and asks fro “small scale development”. Ruscitti admitted that the design “does not look like any other house in OB except the other two you built.” He praised the developer for doing some modifications in response to the board and neighbor concerns. Yet he expressed sympathy with the neighbors. In the end, he gave his support to the project but “not overwhelming support” and said “the fence needs to meet code”.
Member Raeanon Hartigan said the project “creates a fortress – not very welcoming.” But because Jallos had made changes, she supported it. Other Board members like that Jallos had done some modifications and for those members, that was enough to support what was before them, despite not having any updated plans or drawings and only taking the developer’s word for what he promised to do.
“People don’t like this style,” Drew Wilson said, “but we’re not style police” and he had problems with the fence as “OB is open”.
John Ambert gushed: “I think what you’ve created is beautiful”, and said, ” I’m on the side of property rights and support it.” Jallos thanked him.
Other comments from the Board followed Ruscitti’s leanings.
Chair Tom Gawronski didn’t like the project however. “The bulk and scale exceed the neighborhood standards.”
Finally, there was a motion to approve the project with the pledged modifications and with the fence bring brought to code. Gawronksi called for a show of hands – and it was 7 to 4 for approval. Those voting against the project included Therkalsen, Gawronski, Barbara Schmidtknecht and Giovanni Ingolia.
Those approving the project include: Andrew Waltz, Kevin Becker, Ambert, Wilson, Bill Bushe, Ruscitti and Hartigan.