Zoning board OKs parking lot for Randazzo’s

The city Zoning Hearing Board has granted a special exception for Mama Randazzo’s restaurant to build an off-site parking lot on nearby vacant ground — although the board denied the same request previously, pointing out that a building there might be “viable.”

Randazzo’s demolished that building following the denial, clearing the way for approval this time.

The demolition might have violated the spirit of special-exception criteria that off-site parking not require demolition of a viable building, but it’s legal, said board Chairman Mike Halloran — who said the ease with which Randazzo’s circumvented that criterion shows that the provision in the zoning ordinance is badly written.

Randazzo’s is not the first Zoning Hearing Board applicant to solve such a problem in that way, said board member Cory Gehret this week.

According to restaurant principal Paul Randazzo, the vacant modular building on a concrete slab with rats and mold really wasn’t viable.

After the prior denial, the family’s real estate company considered remodeling the building and adding it to its collection of rentals but decided not to because it wouldn’t have been worth it, Randazzo said.

Even if the company hadn’t planned to try again for permission to build the off-site parking lot, the company would have razed the building, Randazzo said afterward.

The building was never red-tagged by code officers as unfit for human habitation, Halloran pointed out.

Randazzo’s needs the additional parking because it plans to expand its seating from 80 to about 105, Randazzo said.

The new lot would take the number of off-street slots from 24 to about 40.

To bolster his case, Randazzo brought neighbor and friend Tim Behe, who lives behind the proposed parking lot property.

Behe nearly pleaded with the board to allow the project, saying that after the parking lot is built and the required vegetative screening installed, his house will be much better protected.

Currently, due to the success of the restaurant, “because the meatballs are just that good,” patrons — though generally polite — nevertheless park and sometimes deposit trash on his lawn, Behe said.

Because of parking on the street caused by the restaurant, there are also snow plowing issues in winter, he said.

Speaking for his neighbors, Behe said, “We’re all for it.”

“We’re trying to do what’s best for the area, not (necessarily) what’s best for us,” Randazzo said.