Monday, February 17, 2014

Legal Committee to Hold Special Meeting

Revisions to the Schedule of Bulk and Area Regulations for Residential Districts will be the subject of a special meeting of the Common Council Legal Committee on Friday, February 21, at 11 a.m. 

The notion that the schedule needed revision arose back in August, when Per Blomquist appeared before the Planning Commission seeking site plan approval for a five-unit building he wanted to construct on the footprint of 248 and 250 Columbia Street. At that meeting, city attorney Cheryl Roberts checked the Schedule of Bulk and Area Regulations and informed the Planning Commission and Blomquist that dwelling units--i.e., apartments--in the R-4 district had to be a minimum of 1,500 square feet. (If Roberts is correct in this interpretation, the minimum size for an apartment size goes up to 2,000 square feet in the R-3 district.)

Although many have disagreed with Roberts' interpretation, attorneys Ken Dow and Joe Catalano among them, maintaining instead that 1,500 square feet per dwelling unit refers to lot size not apartment size, John Friedman, chair of the legal committee accepts Roberts' interpretation, and so reducing the apartment size required by the bulk and area regulations will be the first goal of the work session. Friedman initially suggested that required apartment size should be reduced to 250 square feet but adjusted that to 500 square feet after reading an article about the health risks of small apartments. Gossips believes that the article he read is this one, which appeared in The Atlantic. 

Other changes to the bulk and area regulations that Friedman has suggested need to be made have to do with lot coverage. Currently, the percentage of the lot that buildings may occupy is 30 percent in some districts or 35 percent in others. Friedman has proposed increasing the coverage to 70 percent. Curiously, for the past several years, new construction in Hudson has regularly exceeded the permitted lot coverage without apparent penalty or reprimand from code enforcement.

Another shortcoming in the Schedule of Bulk and Area Regulations that Friedman has mentioned is that only districts with an R in their name are included--that is, the residential districts (R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4) and the three districts created by the LWRP (R-G Riverfront Gateway, C-R Core Riverfront, and R-C Recreational Conservation). Not included is the General Commercial Transitional (G-C-T) district, where the Galvan Initiatives Foundation is proposing to develop ten studio apartments in the old orphanage building--apartments that will only be 350 square feet. Also excluded are the RSC Residential Special Commercial, C-C Central Commercial, G-C General Commercial, G-C-T General Commercial Transitional, and I-1 Industrial districts.

The meeting on Friday, which is open to the public, is expected to go on for several hours as members of the Legal Committee (Friedman, Bart Delaney, Dave Marston, Abdus Miah, and Don Moore), along with Roberts and someone said to have expertise in urban planning and zoning, contemplate changes to the zoning requirements that will impact future new construction and the development of the city.

1 comment:

  1. If the rules are being changed to accommodate this developer and they want 770 sq ft apartments, why change to rule to allow 500 sq ft ones? Seems to me cramming more people into smaller spaces does no good for anyone. Better to do something to prod the owners of empty buildings to fix them up and get them on the market.