The struggle for approval of a new restaurant at Jackson Street and Paterson Avenue will resume before the Zoning Board on Tuesday after the board imposed several conditions on the owner at a hearing last month.
In a 6-1 vote, the Zoning Board approved variances for the 61 Jackson St. project during a hearing last month. But applicant Damiano Tattoli will still have to satisfy the conditions imposed by the Zoning Board and get approval from the City Council for some others.
The establishment, once known as The Downtown Pub, sits on a small triangle of land bordered by Jackson Street, Paterson Avenue and Observer Highway.
The owner must satisfy several conditions imposed by the Zoning Board and get City Council approval for two more.
He must also provide 15 parking spaces or the establishment can’t function as a restaurant, and the board has prohibited him from operating as a bar.
Despite the requirement to move the wall back, the board has allowed the owner to leave three columns in the right-of-way due to the high cost of removal.
“We can decorate it,” said Stephen Spector, an attorney for Tattoli, during the meeting. “We can do whatever. To take and remove the entire encroachment would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it just is not financially feasible or capable by my client.”
The board and City Council must approve
If the amended application is approved, the applicant must also obtain permission from the City Council to allow the encroaching columns to remain, which will require five votes.
Tattoli had constructed a new building in an attempt to expand and redesign the previous structure. According to a memo from Zoning Officer Ann Holtzman, Tattoli built the new building around the old structure. Once the new structure was completed, the developer proceeded to take down the enclosed old building.
“[The] first floor was supposed to be an extension of the previously existing structure, but no part of the prior structure remains,” said Holtzman. She also said although stairs were constructed, no part of the second floor had been built as initially intended by the applicant.
Other “interior inconsistencies” from the original application mentioned in Holtzman’s letter are that the kitchen was reduced in size and relocated; stairs were relocated; restrooms relocated and reduced; the intended use was changed from a restaurant to a bar and the bar was doubled in size, and an elevator was eliminated.
Circuitous path to approval
The project initially bounced between the Hudson County Planning Board and local zoning officials. According to the complaint in a lawsuit against the city filed by William Dimin, Tattoli’s lawyer, the city issued building permits in April 2009. Then the county Planning Board issued a violation notice saying the owner didn’t get county approval.
A month later, city Building Inspector Alfred Arezzo determined the county board’s notice was “issued in error.”
In July 2009, according to the complaint, the county board and city officials agreed Tattoli could proceed at his “own risk” without county board approval. But a month later, Holtzman directed that Tattoli’s certificate of zoning compliance be revoked and issued a stop work order.
The county planning board ultimately gave its approval, but then Holtzman issued a letter telling Tattoli he needed variances from the Hoboken zoning board. The owner’s response was to continue construction, according to the complaint, having been told by “city representatives” that Holtzman’s letter would be withdrawn.
Holtzman’s actions were eventually challenged in August 2011 when the lawsuit between the developer, 118 Clinton Street Associates, LLC, and the City of Hoboken was filed.
According to the complaint, Tattoli asked the court to order the city to pay damages for failing to issue a Certificate of Occupancy for the premises, and to issue the certificate.
The case was dismissed without prejudice in November, meaning it can still be reopened.
The city stands firm
Attorney Ronald Cucchiaro, who represents the City of Hoboken in the case, sent a letter to zoning board attorney Dennis Galvin in March before the last zoning board meeting. In the letter, Cucchiaro maintains that the applicant has not received the proper permits from the city.
“…the Applicant has [allegedly] constructed improvements in a public right of way without acquiring any property rights from the City,” said Cucchiaro in the letter. Cucchiaro added that zoning violations were leveled against the applicant and he has not responded.
“To date, the Applicant has allegedly never sought an easement, license, lease or other property right from the City and has absolutely no municipal consent for these improvements.” Cucchiaro also said in the letter that the applicant was seeking a separate lot for off-street parking, but failed to include this information in the application.
However, Dimin maintained in the lawsuit complaint that the initial request to renovate the first floor and add a second floor was granted and construction began, with permission, in April of 2009.
“Pursuant to the Building Code of the City of Hoboken, all building permits necessary to undertake the construction were applied for and received in April of 2009,” the complaint reads.
The complaint also said that in April 2010, Holtzman’s letter saying the First Certificate of Zoning has been issued in error was “arbitrary, unreasonable and capricious and without any factual basis.”
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.