Somerton Civic Association members discuss and vote on zoning

Last night’s Somerton Civic Association meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance and a recap of what happened in the neighborhood over the summer. President Mary Jane Hazell apologized for the unusually low turnout (about 30 people), since many of the seniors are down the Shore.

Since the final meeting for summer ended in June, three major zoning cases came up, two involving business signs on Bustleton Avenue, and one involving a residential property. The owner of 10224 Bustleton Avenue has a continuance hearing scheduled for October, as he is seeking to have his garage zoned for additional housing. This will be his second appeal; the first was refused.

Board members and attendees then heard three new zoning cases – one from a resident, and two from business owners.

George Chow appealed to members to put a six-foot fence around his yard. The 10-year Somerton resident wants the fence for “privacy and protection,” he said. Chow said he often has children from the neighborhood running across his yard, which is near a corner, and a strange dog once came onto the property and attacked the family pet. Chow told civic members it cost him $500 to treat his dog’s injuries, and wants the fence to keep his pet in and others out. The legal ordinance typically allows for a four-foot fence, and residence expressed concern about the fence interfering with traffic. Chow insisted he has had no complaints from neighbors about his place, but his initial request was refused by the city. Board members and attendees voted 15 to nine in favor of the fence, though some residents wondered out loud if enough members were present for an accurate vote.

Attorney Alexander Ratner and his representation, Conrad Wilder, addressed the members next. Ratner owns a law office at 10162 Bustleton Ave., and appealed to the association last night for zoning for a sign out front of his property. Ratner has been practicing law there for five year, and requested a four-foot-by-four-foot sign atop an existing eight-foot pole. Wilder assured the sign would be placed only eight feet off the ground.

Dominic Ragucci, who led the meeting, said he thought eight feet high is “overkill” and suggested the site be six feet off the ground. President Hazell disagreed, saying six feet was still too high, while a resident thought a sign low to the ground would be better for traffic concerns. Ragucci and Wilder finally agreed on a six-foot sign, to be placed away from the street. Members voted unanimously in favor of the sign.

The final zoning appeal came from Tom Citro, a zoning consultant for a local wholesaler. His client was seeking zoning for retail sale, a small addition to the wholesale, distribution and storage license he currently has. Retail sale zoning would allow him to sell products directly out of his office furniture store, rather than solely from a catalog as he does now. Citro said the business, at 1900 Woodhaven Rd., would keep the same number of hours and employees. Once again, members voted unanimously in favor of the zoning.

At the end of the meeting, Ragucci addressed the attendees about scheduled zoning hearings and the appeals to be heard at next month’s meeting. Many of the upcoming cases are on Bustleton Avenue. In closing, Ragucci said, ” We are committed to keeping as much residential property on Bustleton Avenue as possible.”

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