New Construction in the Neighborhood. What are their responibilities?
May 14, 2019 3:09 PM   Subscribe

A local church is selling off a piece of their property. They say that a contract has been signed, yet when asked they claim to not know details (!) (NYC)

It IS possible the transaction was done over their heads, at a higher level.
Aside from a courtesy, are they obligated to present the details (Height, floor plans, renderings, parking, etc - to the neighbors? Or Community Board? Is a church that contains a community center allowed extra FAR?
The lot is zoned R7A
Building Class- Church.
Land Use - Public Facilities & Institutions
posted by ebesan to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The new, added building will be apts.
posted by ebesan at 3:13 PM on May 14

They typically present it to the zoning administrator and/or planning committee for the city / village / township / county. This varies from state to state but yes, there is typically someone in local government who needs to review the plan and approve it.
posted by megatherium at 3:23 PM on May 14

In general the developers have no obligation to the community or neighbors provided they follow the rules. Now, keep in mind, that this depends on locality. The basic info is held in the zoning code. If the new owner plans to develop the property, they will need to abide by the zoning code and then the building code. There may be a design review (if it's a special district or if they are doing something unusual or if your locality requires it) but that may or may not allow for public input. If they abide by the zoning rules, they can typically submit for permit and then they will have to follow whatever process is set for your area.

The thing to do would be to look for permits filed for this property - either demolition or new development. In my city, you can see all the demo permits applied for and review info contained in them. For something like redeveloping into multi-family, they may have done that work already and you might see it on file if you call your county/city permits office.

Also in my city, the degree to which a developer will engage with the neighbors/community is at their discretion. There's even a process for residential construction where certain size additions require some neighborhood notification but it's notification only, not asking for input or approval.
posted by amanda at 3:32 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]

There may not be more than the vaguest plan at this point. The church sold the land, not a plan for a development. In all likelihood though, it is going to be boxy wood construction, 3-5 stories with underground parking, potentially retail on the first floor with concrete or steel construction for that floor, a mix of panelized sheathing and brick for the exterior.

This standard construction style is driven by a confluence of materials cost, American contractors’ familiarity with stick-built construction, and changes in building codes.
posted by rockindata at 3:52 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

In all likelihood though, it is going to be boxy wood construction, 3-5 stories with underground parking, potentially retail on the first floor with concrete or steel construction for that floor, a mix of panelized sheathing and brick for the exterior.

Er, not in NYC.

If the developer is going to seek an exception to zoning rules, it will have to go through ULURP, which does anticipate public involvement. But the church is not responsible for what the developer does, and the developer's plans are probably still at this point at least somewhat theoretical.
posted by praemunire at 4:42 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]

What has typically been happening in my neighborhood (Harlem) is the church sells their property to a developer with the provision that the church gets space and a long-term lease in the new building. The developer then builds to the maximum height/bulk allowable. This is a common practice in places that have been recently rezoned for taller buildings. As far as I know there isn't a public review as long as the developers aren't seeking zoning variances.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:55 PM on May 14

Just wanted to drop in to mention that the ubiquitous stick-built hives that have been allowed by the puzzling declaration of their "incombustibility" (except in cities like NYC that actually, like, know things) are known as "stumpies." Best new architecture term this century.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:50 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

At the very least, you should see a big sign that tells you the property is being rezoned from religious zoning to multifamily zoning, and the generic notification distance is 200 feet - as in if you live within 200 feet of the property you will get a letter in the mail.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:57 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Also they may present nothing to the neighborhood, but the official zoning meeting where the planning and zoning board changes the zoning from R7A to multifamily or mixed use or whatever is public, and there should be links based on the zoning case number printed on the big sign that you can use to look up most of the info on your city planning board's website. So you can attend that meeting (as a group of neighbors is best) and make your opinions about FAR, height, traffic, and parking known.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:46 AM on May 15

In many cities, churches/religious institutions and sometimes things like schools (institutional uses, basically) are allowed as a conditional use or similar in districts that are designation for residential development. Based on your statement that the property is zoned R7A, it's likely that the property is already designated for residential use (including apartments) and the new owners likely will not need to have the property redesignated/rezoned to develop multifamily housing.

So you will not probably see a sign, because there's nothing that needs to be noticed at this point. If the developer's proposal is within what is allowed by right in R7A, you may not get any kind of notice, because the developer may be planning to change the property from a conditional use (church or whatever) to an allowed use (multifamily residential). In general, if a developer/owner is doing something that's allowed and generally expected, there may be minimal/no notice required, even if the property is changing from one allowed use to another. This is why, for example, doing something like tearing down a detached single-family dwelling and putting in a 5-story multifamily apartment building might not be a project that requires public input-- if the property theoretically allowed that multifamily building the whole time and it's just changing from one allowed us to another, that's not a "change" in the sense that requires public feedback.
posted by Kpele at 9:34 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Oh, but also +1 to whoever said this before-- if the church sold the property, they're not responsible for what the developer chooses to do with it after the fact. So the church folks may very well not know what's happening-- the developer/new owner is the one who will be responsible for telling neighbors what's going on. The church doesn't/didn't need to get neighbor input to sell the property, any more than a private individual does (unless there is some kind of special agreement/contract that says otherwise).
posted by Kpele at 9:37 AM on May 15

The neighborhood is multifamily Residential. Since we are having difficulty getting a clear answer...what if they are keeping ownership of land, but contracting out the development?
posted by ebesan at 3:06 PM on May 15

Is there a way to find out if any permits have been issued? e.g. demolition, building? What other paper trail would there be?
posted by ebesan at 3:22 PM on May 15

what if they are keeping ownership of land, but contracting out the development?

This seems pretty unlikely unless it's low-income housing or some sort of similar nonprofit arrangement.

You can search DOB application filings here.
posted by praemunire at 5:09 PM on May 15

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