Friday, December 21, 2012

More About Those Zoning Changes

At the Legal Committee meeting on Wednesday night, it was decided that some of the specifics of the proposed zoning amendment to permit retail shops in the Core Riverfront District should be referred to Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, because he had experience with waterfront zoning in Troy.  So, at the Economic Development Committee on Thursday night, that's what happened. The specifics in question were these bulk and area regulations:

Minimum Required:
Lot area (square feet)
Lot width (feet)
Lot depth (feet)
Front yard (feet)
Side yard (feet)
Side yard for lots within 25 feet of residence district boundary (feet)
Rear yard (feet)
Rear yard for lots within 25 feet of residence district boundary (feet)
Off-street parking spaces per 300 square feet of floor area

Maximum Permitted:
Lot coverage
Building height (feet)
Number of stories

When presented with the question of determining these "metrics" should be, Roehr's response was: "One of the easier answers is form-based code," which addresses "how the buildings frame the street." 

Curious to know more about form-based codes, Gossips discovered that there exists a Form-Based Codes Institute. The FBCI website provides this explanation of form-based codes:
Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented in both words and clearly drawn diagrams and other visuals. They are keyed to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) of development, rather than only distinctions in land-use type.
This approach contrasts with conventional zoning's focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., FAR [floor area ratio], dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic LOS [line of site]), to the neglect of an integrated built form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory. They are drafted to implement a community plan. They try to achieve a community vision based on time-tested forms of urbanism. Ultimately, a form-based code is a tool; the quality of development outcomes depends on the quality and objectives of the community plan that a code implements.
The FBCI website contains other resources for anyone interested in learning more.


  1. I applaud New Urbanism which seems to be based on the sustainability aspect. But to base zoning on TIME TESTED forms of urbanism? Have not all forms of urbanism thus far failed? If time tested forms of urbanism have succeeded why would there be a need for New Urbanism in the first plcae?

    Greg Draiss
    The Real Dirt on Gardening

  2. I have lots to say, but I'd be seen as criticizing politicians who will subsequently smear me with impunity. (It's a one-way street, so my advice to be people is not to try it.)

  3. So if the land (lots) from across the boat club down to the Dunn warehouse bldg, former "Hart's Express" trucking company are up for grabs doesn't that eliminate the majority of parking area for Riverfront events?
    Can someone create what the view of multiple 1-3 story buildings would like from South Front, & lower Allen, Union Sts.
    What ever happen to the walk across bridge for Amtrak riders?

  4. TMD, to properly address that question, remember to factor in the area south of the Holcim yard, which is slated to be a massive parking lot. We have to envision the overall parking design in order to anticipate how the overflow will work during bigger events.

    In order to accomplish the whole thing (and also to win the state's blessings and funds), the industrial history of the site in question must first be investigated and then remediated if necessary.

    In order to get to the goal as quickly and easily as possible - this new riverfront parking field - the industrial history of the immediate, surrounding area is being intentionally rewritten and erased: first in the LWRP and now in the brownfields program built upon the LWRP.

    It's an enormous ecological issue for the South Bay, but does anyone care? And why should the aldermen care about a white-wash if the public doesn't care? The state won't care either; Home Rule makes this our responsibility, and we've now missed two opportunities to speak out.

    Instead, bologna anti-fracking legislation is apparently more exciting than planning for parking lots next to actual wetlands, let alone what some of the planners are prepared to do in order to achieve their ends.

    And if I'm attacked again by phonies for speaking out when nobody else will, then this time I hope I'm at least permitted to answer in my own defense.

  5. This sounds like a really dumb idea. There are a number of old, ramshackle, run down buildings already existing that could be developed, the Dunn warehouse, the abandoned factory, the building across from the station and more as you go on up the hill. Why not develop those eyesore structures and preserve the best land by the river for parkland, bike trails, boating and other recreational and environmentally sound activities. People need to realize that "development" and "improvement" are not values dependent on profit and increase in economic activity. This is an old model, if there is to be a future, we need to change the way we think about things. True development and improvement of a waterfront resource needs to be based on restoring and improving the natural, environmental beauty of the waterfront. This is a resource that has a much greater value than any coffee shop, restaurant or tourist trinket store can bring. New retail building on the waterfront is just another form of degradation, just a fancier replacement for the commercial, degrading activity that is already there. How much retail space does Hudson need? There are plenty of buildings that could be developed as retail storefronts from 3rd street down to the waterfront. The fact is, the community does not have the retail traffic to support many of the businesses that are already here.

  6. Thank you, Slow Art. It doesn't sound dumb at all the way you say it.

    On the other hand lets not break with Hudson tradition, shall we? If we leave it to one person to decide - say someone who's not from here and has no stake - then we can attain our usual outcome with greater ease.

    It seems that lately we've chosen Bill Roehr for many of these kinds of jobs. A very nice fellow, but WTF?