MALTA – Developers of the Park Place Planned Development District asked the Town Board to consider amending the PDD for the commercial area at the front of the project, reducing the density of the area and following the town’s form based code. [Read more…]
MALTA – He retired at the end of last year, aged 76, after 10 years as town supervisor. [Read more…]
BY JENNIE GREY
Addressing concerns about density, traffic, and design standards, the Malta Town Board held a workshop on Monday, Aug. 20 to rework sections of its in-progress zoning code. Consultant Lee Einsweiler attended via speaker phone from Austin, Texas.
Einsweiler, principal of Code Studio, presented a first draft of the new form-based code in July. The code is intended to be an integrated addition to Malta’s existing zoning.
The rewritten zoning lays out rules for districts, buildings, and land use. Regulation for lot size, building placement, building mass and height, and changes in parking and landscaping are also included.
Building height remains a key issue in Malta, whose single-story Town Hall faces the five-story Ellsworth Commons complex across Route 9. Code Studio designated town districts based on current and future use.
Only a few small districts have provision for four-story structures, Einsweiler said. Most of downtown will be two- or three-story buildings.
One area near the Northway allows for the taller buildings, such as hotels. The Town Board debated the permitted size and height of construction there, deciding on a five-story limit. The acceptable footprint will be 65,000 square feet.
“This is larger than elsewhere in the town code,” Einsweiler said. “This footprint is the size of a grocery store or a small box store, not as large as a Wal-Mart or a Lowe’s.”
Malta building height is an important concern for developers whose planned development district (PDD) code has already been approved by the Town Board. Affected projects include Blacksmith Square, Malta Crossings, and Park Place.
The board agreed to limit such developments to four stories in height under any redesign, if the current approvals expire before construction is begun.
Some members of the Town Board expressed reluctance to give up the PDD process, arguing for its control and negotiation. With the form-based code, developers would cease seeking PDDs and simply follow the regulations.
“We’re trying to eliminate the PDDs and get their entitlement into the form-based code,” said Einsweiler, who said the process could be considerably speeded up.
“We have negotiated 54 PDDs,” said Town Supervisor Paul Sausville. “To throw all that out the door and adopt this inconsistent code is reckless. If it’s all boiled down to a manual of code, it becomes like a computerized process. There’s also a human element.”
Other town personnel said negotiation and discretion would not be lost just because the zoning code changed. Tony Tozzi, Malta’s building and planning coordinator, said the code would guide development.
“A business owner would look at the form-based code and look at his business model, and come up with a design,” he said.
“Most developers are willing to listen to comments and change their projects for the better,” said Deputy Supervisor Glenn Rockwood, chairman of the town Planning Board.
Einsweiler agreed, saying the approved Park Place PDD hampered zone conception. That developer offered to create green space to fit with the new code.
The board also decided to speak to the Historic Preservation Review Commission (HPRC), a Malta town committee, about its role in overseeing the downtown historic district. “This is a very precious, high-priority area of downtown,” said Councilwoman Tara Thomas.
Malta’s gazebo, at the roundabout corner of Route 9 and Dunning Street, sparked a spirited discussion. The zoning consultants had originally suggested moving the structure to a more usable location, such as the Parade Ground.
“The gazebo is strategically located and an icon for the town,” Sausville said. “I think it would be tragic to have it removed.”
The board proposed to rule the gazebo’s land as zoned open space.
Malta hopes to implement the new code on Jan. 1, 2013.
The Town Board also determined to review Malta’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement and determine what updates might be needed. Compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act will also be sought.
The town’s comments will be worked into a second draft of the code, and another meeting will permit the board to discuss issues further. Sausville remained concerned about the exacerbation of downtown challenges, such as density and traffic.
“You’re talking about building out the town like Ellsworth Commons and calling it a good thing,” he argued.
Tozzi said density would be 26 percent less under the new code.
For information on the project visit the Code Studio Web site at www.malta.code-studio.com.