P&Z Watch: Rooftop Terrace on Greenwich Ave is Okay, 9 Ft Rooftop Pergola is Not

The first item during P&Z’s eight hour meeting Tuesday night concerned a proposed outdoor rooftop terrace for tenants at 239 Greenwich Avenue.

The terrace was ultimately approved, but not until after an extensive discussion about a proposed 9 ft pergola.

An application for a rooftop terrace at 239 Greenwich Avenue, a building with 20+ apartments, would provide a gathering space. There was an issue with the height of a proposed pergola. Not only could it be seen from Greenwich Avenue and adjacent buildings, but the regulations do not permit it.

Attorney John Tesei said the Zoning Enforcement Officer had endorsed the pergola.

“He looked at the pergola and didn’t have a categorization, and he thought that was an appropriate adjustment, knowing it would have to be set back from the sides,” Tesei said.

P&Z chair Margarita Alban said a regulation 6-127 (d) referred to a nine foot height maximum for stairs and elevator access on commercial buildings.

She said the ZEO was not the final interpreter of regulations, but rather was advisory to the commission.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time what Jodi Couture says is holy to us,” Alban said. “We have the utmost respect for Mr. Couture.”

Alban noted 6-127(e) referred to items including but not limited to barbeques, planters and spas on a rooftop cannot exceed four feet in height.

“The problem is they can’t get it low enough to comply with regulation for what you can do on top of buildings,” Alban said. “I’m just not seeing the compliance with the regulations.”

Also, Alban noted the building was already non conforming as to its height, and to add a pergola would increase its non conformity.

Further, Greenwich Avenue is a National Register Historic District.

The application had been before the commission previously, and had included a large screen TV. That has since been removed from the application. In fact, when the discussion turned to lighting, the architect, Andreas Stresemann said the only lighting was for exits in an emergency.

Also they previously noted there could be no amplified noise.

Nick Macri recalled that the commission worked extensively on 6-127 and spoken about furniture and umbrellas on rooftops “not sticking up.”

“There was conversation that the maximum was 4 feet and had to be set back 2 feet for each 1 foot in height,” Macri said.

And while the pergola was deemed appropriate by the Historic District Commission, Alban said, HDC was also advisory to the commission. “So I do not believe we are overstepping,” she said. “From a regulatory point of view I’m justified in bringing up this point.”

Ms Alban talked about the overall ambiance of the building and referred to 6-15 (3) (a):

The architect, Mr. Stresemann, said the pergola had been at the request of his client.

“They wanted to have people under the pergola in different groups and be shaded. It’s a traditional white, painted wood pergola.”

The topic of umbrellas on a rooftop was raised.

“So umbrellas are not allowed on roofs?” attorney for the applicant John Tesei asked.

Mr. Macri said the reg for a 4 ft height maximum included but was not limited to barbecues, planters and spas, and that when they worked on 6-127, “we didn’t want roofs starting to sprout all sorts of crazy stuff.”

“The intent was not to change the visual architecture,” Alban said. “This one affects an entire neighborhood and historic district. The intent (of the reg) was not to impact the visual context of the neighborhood.”

The application was approved minus the pergola, and with conditions including the terrace use be limited to residential tenants, have egress fixtures, no amplified music or PA system.