Monday, March 3, 2014

Zoning Discussions Continue

Members of the Legal Committee continued their discussion of zoning last Friday. The focus, as before, was the Schedule of Bulk and Area Regulations for Residential Districts, with particular attention to R4 districts, which are the First Ward, the Second Ward, the Fourth Ward up to Fourth Street, and the plot of land on which Crosswinds was built. (Does anyone wonder about spot zoning?)

In their previous work session, on February 21, the group tackled the question of setbacks and came to the conclusion that the setback for any new construction should conform with the prevailing setback on block with zero being the minimum required setback. In the previous session, they also settled on 3,000 square feet as a proposed minimum size for a buildable lot and 500 square feet as the minimum interior size for an individual apartment.

Last Friday, the Legal Committee took up the issue of side setbacks, or side yards. There was some interest in allowing new buildings to be built to the lot line on both sides as well as in the front, the argument being that all properties in the city had access to backyards from alleys and hence did not need access from the front of the building. In the end, however, it was decided to adopt the model of the neighborhoods as they actually developed in the 19th century and allow a zero setback on one side of the building and require a minimum setback of 3 feet on the other side, to allow access and egress.

The workshop foundered, however, on the issue of accessory buildings, which committee member David Marston (First Ward) characterized as "our biggest lift." According to the code, as it was presented at the workshop, accessory buildings--a garage or carriage house, for example--must be 15 feet from any lot line and not less than 10 feet from the principal building on the lot. The required side setbacks would make it impossible to build a garage on an individual lot in Hudson, which is typically only 26 feet wide. The required 15-foot setback from the street or alley, similar to the facade setbacks currently in the code, does not reflect the setbacks on garages that already exist along alleys.

One of the expressed goals of reconsidering the zoning is to encourage offstreet parking, and the requirements for accessory buildings seem to make constructing garages behind principal buildings difficult if not impossible. Stephen Dunn, who owns two duplexes on Robinson Street and wants to build a garage structure behind the buildings, on Rope Alley, to provide parking and an additional apartment over the garage, was present at the workshop and delivered a five-page memo to the Legal Committee outlining his issues with the existing code. He pointed out in his memo that the code is at odds with "what is now actually 'on the ground' between 2nd and 3rd Street on Robinson Street."

Dunn asked the committee, "What is the public policy reason for not having alleys a solid wall of garages with living spaces above?" There was no immediate answer to Dunn's question. Because the use of alleys for offstreet parking was part of the vision that drove the amended zoning proposed in 2006, it was decided that the members of the Legal Committee would study that document, which can now be viewed at the City of Hudson website, and reconvene in two or three weeks. In order to avoid a scheduling conflict with the Historic Preservation Commission, which meets on the second and fourth Fridays of each month, it was decided that the next zoning workshop would take place on Friday, March 21, and would begin at 11 a.m. in the Council room at City Hall.

1 comment:

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