The Zoning Board of Adjustment agreed with attorney Bill O'Brien Tuesday and approved his application to make a property that he said existed as a two-family home for 66 years legally one, despite objections from a local civic group.
With the threat of sheriff's sale looming, current property owners Dan and Susan Negron successfully won a decision to make 525 Fairthorne Ave. a two-family home. The husband-and-wife were set to reach foreclosure. However, David Branigan—who has purchased, renovated and —had agreed to purchase it if the city permitted two-family units. the purchase would allow the family to remain in one unit.
The Ridge Park Civic Association, however, has maintained opposition throughout, saying it feared allowing a two-family home would escalate rental properties in the area.
However, O'Brien has argued that the use will continue as it has for six decades. He contended that documents, including a 1991 property sale and separate phone records, confirm that the city already accepted the property as a two-family home.
Civic Vice President Patti Brennan has said area neighbors opposed the change and it's Ridge Park policy to oppose plans that will enable more rentals. Additionally, the civic maintained O'Brien insufficiently notified neighbors of an April zoning continuance and failed to effectively communicate with the civic association to get on the group's agenda—the latter issue resulted in heated exchange at the June 7 .
O'Brien disputes that lack of communication. NewsWorks.org reported that he presented emails backing his case at the Tuesday hearing. The attorney did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
In a July 30 letter to ZBA Chairwoman Lynnette Brown-Sow, Ridge Park President Gary Ferris explained the group's opposition:
"Although we sympathize with the foreclosure process that Mr. O’Brien’s clients are going (through), our responsibility as a community organization is to the community and we could not make a decision on this property without those affected being notified of the presentation. We are also concerned that a foreclosure would be used as a basis and reason to change the zoning of a property," the letter said.
Following the zoning approval, Brennan said Ridge Park planned an appeal.
"We’re confused as to why the ZBA allowed them to disregard the ability for direct input from the immediate neighbors, and the zoning was changed to enable the owner to sell the property—not the normal situation," she said in an email to Patch.