GN Estates questions home expansion plan

Stefan Singh

After more than an hour of heated debate, the Village of Great Neck Zoning Board of Appeals tabled an appeal by a Magnolia Drive couple seeking to add a fourth bedroom to their Great Neck Estates home.

The couple, Adir and Mor Cohen of 15 Magnolia Drive, have been seeking to expand their home since last year but their plans are in violation of two village codes.

At the board’s meeting, the Cohen’s attorney, Paul Bloom faced off against board members, concerned neighbors and Village of Great Neck Estates Mayor David A. Fox.

The Cohen’s original proposal to the board was to construct a two-story addition to the rear of their existing home, but the zoning board directed the Cohens to seek an alternatve plan.

According to a public hearing notice, the plan would require a front yard setback of 17.9 feet, where a minimum of 30 feet is required by the village code. The proposed addition would also exceed the village’s height-to-setback ratio.

The revised plan’s height-to-setback ratio still exceeded the maximum allowable, but by only by an inch. Bloom said this would not affected the neighbors of their home on 13 Magnolia Drive. A shadow study done by the Cohen’s architect, showed that the shadow that would be cast by the home would not reach the base of their neighbor’s home.

After the study was provided to the board, Kwok Au, the Cohen’s neighbor on Magnolia Drive spoke to the board in opposition of the variance. Au said the Cohen’s architect altered the dimensions and positioning of his home to fit into their shadow study. He provided the board with a survey of his land which showed that his home was larger than shown in the shadow study.

Following that testimony Fox entered the room and also spoke in opposition of granting the variance. Fox said that several residents in the community had approached him with concerns that the Cohens’ new structure would depreciate the value of their properties and he urged the board to keep in mind the feelings of the residents in Great Neck Estates.

After Fox left, the board asked if the Cohens would be willing to pay to have a board appointed architect redo the shadow study with the correct dimensions of the property. Bloom declined, saying that doing so would cause his clients to miss the “building season.”

The board then agreed to close off all public discussions about the case.

Seconds later Bloom changed his stance and said they would be willing to pay for the study to be redone.

The board then took some time to deliberate on whether they should give the Cohen’s the opportunity to have the shadow study redone. The chair of the board, Stanley Fischer, made it clear that he thought the case had gone on long enough and that it would be a waste of the Cohen’s money and everyone’s time to redo the study.

The other board members noted that while they were not sure if a positive shadow study would be enough to pull them onto the Cohen’s side, they were willing to give the Cohen’s one final opportunity to redo the study.

The Cohen’s remodeling dreams are scheduled to be continued at the board’s April meeting. But if the shadow study is not completed by that time it could be bumped to a later date.

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Stefan Singh

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