Letter: ZBA: Mayor’s attacks on board are unfair

To the Editor,
We write as members of the Board of Appeals to respond to a letter written by Mayor Doug French that was recently published inThe Rye Record newspaper.No doubt Mr. French’s letter was written in the heat of a political campaign.However, in his zeal to support the mayoral candidacy of Peter Jovanovich, Mr. French made baseless statements that undermine the functioning and credibility of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and unfairly attack one of our members, Tony Piscionere.

The Board of Appeals has no political role, and takes no political positions.Anyone who has attended our meetings knows that each application for a zoning variance receives careful consideration in accordance with the criteria established by New York law—a balancing test that requires us to weigh the benefit to the applicant of the proposed variance against the detriment to the community or neighborhood. Of course, it is impossible to please everyone in every case, and inevitably, in some cases, either the applicant or neighbors may disagree with the board’s decision.

It is, perhaps, facile and most certainly incorrect to suggest, as Mr. French does, that the Board of Appeals is “pro-development” or responsible for the “over-sized house being built next to you.”Our record reflects that we are less inclined to grant variances for new “ground up” development than for improved properties.We believe—and our decisions over the years bear witness—that developers constructing new homes should comply with zoning laws and build “as of right” with minimal or no relief from the strict requirements of the zoning code.

In contrast, in many cases, the balancing test swings in favor of an owner who needs a variance to expand a home for a growing family or to provide space for an elderly parent with health issues.The zoning laws are designed to accommodate such situations, but again, the balancing test requires the board to consider whether the variance requested is the minimum needed to accommodate the applicant’s needs.And this is the test we apply.

As colleagues who have worked for years with Tony Piscionere, and who know first-hand Tony’s devotion to community service and to the fair application of our zoning laws, we unanimously reject the false innuendo that he is influenced or motivated by anything other than fairness and concern for the community of Rye.It was irresponsible of Mr. French to have attacked Tony for political purposes.

We dislike the acrimony that some politicians have interjected into the public debate. The citizens of Rye should know and feel confident that their zoning board decides every zoning matter on its own merits, in accordance with applicable laws and rules.All of our proceedings are open to the public and all are welcome to attend.

Scott Beechert, David Cutner, Serge Nivelle,
Maureen Powers, Alan S. Weil, Alan Wiener,
Members of Rye’s Zoning Board of Appeals