Saturday, February 16, 2019

Fixing the Zoning Code

Hudson's zoning code was adopted in 1968, when Hudson was a very different place.
Fifty years later, some problems with the code are obvious: setback requirements that prohibit new construction to replicate or be compatible with existing historic buildings, commercial buildings that can no longer be used for commercial purposes because they are located in residential districts, unrealistic requirements for offstreet parking. All these things keep the Zoning Board of Appeals very busy deliberating over applications both for area variances and for use variances. 

It would seem that the code could be amended to correct these obvious problems, but there was been reluctance to make amendments to the zoning codeexcept, most notably, the one made recently to accommodate the proposed Stewart's expansionin favor of holding out for comprehensive zoning revisions, which will cost tens of thousands of dollars the City allegedly does not have to spend for the purpose.

The Planning Board, however, seems willing to eschew the trepidation about doing things "piecemeal." At the end of its meeting last Thursday, the board discussed making a recommendation to the Common Council about relaxing some of the requirements in the city code for offstreet parking. Currently, hotels must provide one offstreet parking space for every room, and eating and drinking establishments must provide one offstreet parking space for every three seats. These requirements have demanded some pretty inventive solutions for many new enterprises, as well as any number of area variances from the ZBA. There are two projects currently before the ZBA for area variances because of parking. The plan to restore and develop the Park Place firehouses into a marketplace and tasting room for New York State craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries requires, according to the code, 25 offstreet parking spaces. The wine bar planned for 260 Warren Street requires 30 offstreet parking spaces. 

In the discussion on Thursday, Planning Board chair Walter Chatham observed, "We have an overflow of parking capacity," referring to the underutilized municipal parking lots located off Warren Street. He also expressed the opinion, "At the time the parking codes were written, if you had to walk more than ten feet [from your car to your destination], you were putting yourself in danger." That may have been the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but probably not in 1968 when the zoning code was adopted. It's more likely the motivation for the parking requirements was to keep Hudson's commercial businesses competitive with Greenport. 

In 1965, just three years before Hudson adopted its zoning code, the Healy Farm93 acres between Fairview Avenue (Route 9) and Union Turnpike (Route 66), just beyond Hudson's northern border—had been sold and was being developed as a shopping center, with acres of parking in close proximity to places of business. Given that circumstance, it's easy to attribute Hudson's parking requirements to a desire to ensure that parking for patrons of Hudson businesses was as convenient as that provided in Greenportthat goal coupled with no compunction about demolishing old buildings and creating parking lots in their stead. This house, the home of Elihu and Eliza Gifford, parents of the Hudson River School painter Sanford Robinson Gifford, was demolished during that era, in 1965, and its location turned into a parking lot.

In what may have been his last bit of advice as counsel to a Hudson regulatory board, assistant city attorney Mitch Khosrova told the Planning Board, "The quicker you make a recommendation to simplify the parking, the better."


  1. Our zoning laws are a shambles and need to be updated. And exceptions are made that don't make any sense, like the Stewart's debacle. And parking is an ongoing problem with no simple answers. Our population is going down, down, down, but our parking needs seem to be going up, up, up. I don't understand it. And part of the problem is that people with driveways are too lazy to use them and park on the street instead, like the ones at the intersection in front of Stewarts. They have more than adequate parking, but put their cars on the street, tangling traffic during the commute hours.

  2. why is there still no parking and curb cuts still on Warren st. at least 4 outside BACK BAR. OLDE HUDSON has some that has changed but no meters. Its a personal parking space for the business owners, just like the handicapped space in the lot for American Glory owner

  3. as you state, Carole, the municipal lots seem not to count. Look what an incredibly beautiful building was torn down for parking !
    so many of these icons of architecture are lost forever.
    hoepfully, we can be intelligent about parking and support what is now called "the walking city ".
    the Car Culture is what is ruining the climate and the urban landscape.

  4. Its too bad that multiple level parking garages are so expensive.

  5. To think that a significant family house lived in by a founding member of the Hudson River School would be discarded like this! And, no lessons learned! Tearing down more houses to accommodate a generic business that had
    no business permitted to develop that site in the first place. It should be the other way around. Stewart's should be demolished and an historical appropriate structure built in its place. Retail on the first floor, for groceries perhaps, upstairs reasonable priced apartments. Parking issues is not a surprise in a popular town like Hudson. The revenue that tourism generates should be appropriated for creative parking solutions. In another,
    culturally sensitive better world, the Gifford house would have been transformed into an art museum honoring an important artist, living and painting in our very midst.