At its well attended second meeting, people from a number of neighborhoods surrounding Moore Hall (the former pink Skidmore dormitory on Union Avenue) met to strategize how best to deal with Sonny Bonacio’s current plan to convert the building into 53 “micro apartments.”
The neighbors had previously attended a meeting of the Planning Board which had been asked by the Zoning Board of Appeals to advise them regarding Bonacio’s request for a variance on the minimum requirement for on-site parking spaces. For whatever reason, the Planning Board was not asked to advise on the other variance which would allow the project to go from fifteen units to fifty-three units.
The neighbors were advised to focus their comments on the parking issue in light of the ZBA charge to the Planning Board. It was both interesting and consistent with the history of our Planning Board that we had to endure a lecture from Cliff VanWagner about how all discussion must be limited to parking.
In fact, I was enormously impressed both by the turn out and by the performance of the members of our community who spoke. Our speakers kept their presentations to the point. People were both brief and articulate. I have outlined their basic points in my email to Mr. Bonacio that I posted previously on this blog. People at events like this can get quite emotional to the point sometimes that while one can have sympathy for them, one can still be embarrassed. Not that evening. I did not personally know many of the speakers but I was truly gratified to live in a neighborhood of such thoughtful and caring people.
After they spoke, we all then had to endure the discussion of the Planning Board members. I have written about the makeup of this board so often that I will not go through it again in this blog. Five of the seven members were appointed by Scott Johnson. They represent the latest in a long line of real estate/construction appointments that are the legacy of a city dominated by this business network.
True to form they violated their own admonishments to the audience by talking at some length about what an outstanding example of “re-use” this proposal was. They basically restated most of Mr. Toohey’s earlier presentation (of course he did not limit his remarks to parking either). After a tedious and unfocused discussion on how great the project was when they were about to vote to recommend that the variance be granted, someone got up from the audience and pointed out to them that they had failed to once talk about the parking issue.
For several minutes, members of the Planning Board spoke derisively about people’s concerns over parking. Mr. VanWagner, who always impresses himself with his own wit, pointed out to the public that many of them have been advocates for “The City In The Country” and since they live in the city they should be prepared to look for parking spaces.
When another member of the public had the temerity to express frustration that the board appeared indifferent to the concerns of the community, we then had to endure lectures from Tom Lewis and Cliff VanWagner about the difference between listening to the public and agreeing with them. They also went on at length congratulating themselves on the many hours they have spent as members of this board.
They then voted to support granting the variance.
If Sonny Bonacio wanted to build an eighty foot outhouse on Union Avenue, Cliff VanWagner would not only vote to approve it, he would attend the ribbon cutting.
The Neighbors Meet And Moblize This Evening
So the neighbors met this evening with the attorney, John Hayko, who they had hired, to discuss preparing for the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Monday. They also distributed signs for people to put in front of their homes. The people who had circulated petitions reported on their success.
There still remained hope that Sonny Bonacio would address many of their concerns.
If you would like to support the neighbors efforts to get a better plan for Moore Hall, here is a link to an on line petition. Link To Petition