Neighbors of a Downtown boarding house that city officials claim is operating illegally will have a chance to voice their opinions when the issue comes before Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday, Aug. 18.
Boarding house owner Joe Sangi has been locked in a legal battle with the city since late last year when he opened the facility for mentally and physically disabled adults at 106 West Chestnut St. The house has been a boarding or nursing home at least since the 1950s; most recently it was the location of Chiz’s Heart Street which, like Sangi’s operation, accommodated adults with disabilities. After Heart Street moved in early 2014 to Uptown’s Washington Manor edifice, Sangi bought the West Chestnut Street property. In a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in December, Sangi alleged that Mayor Shayne Gallo and Corporation Counsel Andrew Zweben illegally denied him building permits and used the city’s Building Department to harass him.
City officials, meanwhile, claim the boarding house operation is illegal under the city’s zoning law. Zweben said that the address lost its “pre-existing nonconforming use” status back in the early ’70s, when it changed from a nursing home which provided basic medical care to elderly and disabled residents to a boarding house. Zweben argues that the fact that several mayoral administrations, including the current one, approved its operating permit and otherwise facilitated the building’s use a as a boarding house should not prevent the city from enforcing the law.
The city has been enjoined by court order from taking action against the boarding house since March when police, claiming the facility was operating illegally, showed up and ordered residents to leave. Another court decision, however, requires Sangi to make his case to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals before proceeding further with the lawsuit. On Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m., Sangi will go before the board to argue that his facility is in compliance with the city’s zoning code. In particular, Sangi is expected to argue that there’s no meaningful difference between the “nursing home” operations at the address and the subsequent boarding houses.
Alderwoman Deborah Brown (R-Ward 9) said that she expected a strong turnout from neighbors of 106 West Chestnut. Residents of the quiet residential block had lobbied to have the address return to single-family status after Heart Street moved out. According to Brown, their concerns with the new facility range from noise and traffic to constant police calls and, earlier this year, a double stabbing involving residents of the house.
“There are a lot of people who have been waiting to speak out on this,” said Brown. “This is their chance to tell the board what’s really going on there.”