[image-1] Michael Shem-Tov can picture the patio in his head. The Mellow Mushroom owner can see the tables and the landscaping bordering the rooftop. What he can’t see is where the cars are going to park. A tactic by the city to ensure that downtown developers contribute the parking needed to accommodate growth has been used by unresponsive neighbors as a way to block Shem-Tov’s dream.

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals denied his application last month for an 800- square-foot rooftop patio after years of appeals to the neighbors, even though a mountain of promised concessions had won over city staff. If there was any doubt the refusal hinged on concerns from neighbors, they were washed away minutes after the refusal when a similar request on Upper King won swift and unanimous approval for a nearly identical request because of a lack of opposition.

He could do what he wants with the roof by right, city staff have said, if only he had the five parking spaces required for the expansion. Because he could find only four spots under a maximum six-month lease (missing the city’s requirement of a 10-year lease), he went before the Zoning Board, who factors in not only his difficulty in finding the spaces, but also his neighbors’ concerns about having diners next door.

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