CATSKILL — The Catskill Village Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday denied an application filed by Dennis Frascello, owner of the former St. Patrick’s Academy on Woodland Avenue, requesting a variance to convert the building into 43 rental units.
The vote was 3-1 to reject the application.
The former Catholic school is situated in an area zoned Residential 1, which means it is solely for single-family homes, the ZBA said in a statement Thursday.
Frasello did not request a zoning change, but asked only for a variance for his project, according to the ZBA.
If it had been granted, the variance would remain with the property, so another owner could take over the variance and complete the original project or create a new one, according to the ZBA statement.
Granting the application would have advanced the proposal to the Village of Catskill Planning Board, which has the authority to request its own traffic study, engineering study and asbestos removal plan.
“The applicant would not have been able to easily move forward until the planning board was satisfied that all zoning code regulations had been met,” the ZBA’s statement said.
The planning board, at its April 24 meeting, wanted to know whether the developer had fielded any offers to purchase the property and whether any asbestos had been removed or if a survey had been done to determine the presence of asbestos.
Planners also asked about a structural survey to determine the long-term viability of the existing buildings and whether the development required financing that would involve tax breaks.
St. Patrick’s Academy consisted of the school building, a two-floor gymnasium and a large playing field behind the gym with a view of the Hudson River. Students from 7th grade through 12th grade attended the academy before the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese closed the school in 1988 because of declining enrollment.
In 2020, the village planning board reviewed a proposal, also submitted by Frascello, to convert the former school into apartments. Unauthorized construction on the property in early 2019 brought scrutiny by village officials and sharp criticism from village residents.
Then-Village President Vincent Seeley said he saw two completed apartments and one under construction during a site visit in late January 2019.
As it does today, the property was situated then in a Residential 1 zone. The entire area would have to be rezoned for multiple dwellings.
Village Planning Board Chairman Patrick McCulloch agreed in 2020 the property is not zoned for apartments. Frascello had the options to request the village board to rezone the property or go to the ZBA and seek a variance.
“It’s in their hands as to what direction they want to go,” McCulloch said at the time.
The number of apartments Frascello wanted to build was not specified in the 2020 proposal. Another part of the plan included renovating the former gym and renting the building to Greene County for storage of records.
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