Town Officials Propose Changes in Zoning Rules for Downtown Projects

Three town officials presented a plan Thursday to restrict development density, size and environmental impact in Huntington’s downtown.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Town Councilmen Gene Cook and Edmund Smyth plan to put forth a resolution at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting to schedule a public hearing on their proposals.

Standing in the  lot of the closed Chase bank at Gerard Street and New York Avenue–which the town plans to acquire for municipal parking–the three officials cited resistance to big developments and complaints about a lack of parking  for their proposals.

“We have heard the concerns of our residents who have questioned the impact some development has on our traffic patterns and congestion, on our water quality, and our quality of life. It is our goal to preserve the historic character and suburban charm of our town, while simultaneously supporting economic development and protecting our natural resources,” Lupinacci said. 

“I think we have the best downtown area in terms of culture, the arts, restaurants and bars in any of Long Island,” Lupinacci said. “At the same time, we want to balance economic activity with providing places for people to live and just making sure there’s certain controls in place for future development.”

Several proposed developments in the downtown have provoked criticism and varying levels of opposition. A  project involving five parcels on Stewart Avenue,  Main and Gerard streets brought out such a huge crowd in opposition at a  Zoning Board of Appeals meeting earlier this year that the hearing was adjourned and never rescheduled.

“These changes take in to account not only water quality, storm water run-off, sewer system capacity, and traffic issues while allowing for the future development of Huntington Village,” Cook said.  “It is extremely important that these changes are not only appropriate, but will preserve the historic downtown nature that draws visitors from all over to Huntington.”

Councilman Ed Smyth added: “Supply for parking just isn’t there. The proposed changes will help to alleviate the current demand for parking across the downtown village area.”

A release from the town made a point of trying to distinguish the proposal from development under the previous administration.

Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, a Democrat, took issue with not being included in the discussion of the proposal. 

 “If they had been seeking consensus on this legislation, I would have thought they would have shared the legislation and/or invited me to the press conference,” he said.  “I want to keep our downtowns vibrant and balance that with our outstanding quality of life and will review this through that prism.”

The town said the proposal covers a multitude of zoning issues including:

Mixed-used buildings

 A newly established 38-foot height limit on all new mixed-use buildings.

 A newly established Floor-Area Ratio (FAR) requirement to control building density, which is the ratio of square footage in the building to lot size, for both existing buildings and for new construction, with more restrictive density requirements for new construction.

 Existing buildings converting to mixed-use/building within the existing footprint will be subject to a newly established Floor-Area Ratio (FAR) of 2.5.

New construction or building outside the existing footprint of the building will be subject to a Floor-Area Ratio (FAR) of 1.5.

 To promote economic activity and eliminate mixed-use projects that are essentially residential buildings in disguise, the new requirements limit storage or community space to no more than 15% of the ground floor, which was intended to be reserved for commercial activity.

 For aesthetic purposes, the establishment of parking in the front of existing buildings converting to mixed-use will be prohibited.

Requirements for Planning Board Site Plan Review

  •  Requiring traffic impact analysis when reviewing projects in the C-6 District.
  •   When the project is also in the Huntington Sewer District, requiring sewer and system capacity impact analysis; the Departments of Environmental Waste Management and the Department of Planning and Environment must review the project’s sanitary use projections prior to the submission of the site plan. If the joint review determines it will have a detrimental impact, the application will not be entertained by the Town.
  •    Requiring compliance with the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan; applications must comply with drainage system requirements but if this requirement cannot be satisfied by the applicant, payment must be made to the Town to fund the required drainage, storm water runoff, and water quality improvements, deposited in the Drainage Impact Fee Account.
  •    Some site plan applications in the Huntington Village Hamlet Center will also be sent to the Historic Preservation Commission to advise the Planning Board with architectural review, including new buildings, front facades, exterior additions or alterations above 1,000 sq. ft., and any type of demolition.
  •       Architectural guidelines will promote better coordination between a building’s architecture and its surroundings; design should be consistent with its location.
  •   Height and setback of the building should be similar to that of surrounding buildings, designed to complement existing neighborhood aesthetics.

Off-Street Parking Requirements

  •  Eliminates the ability to use newly acquired municipal parking lots in the Huntington Village Hamlet Center, which has been identified as the area in the Town which has the greatest need for additional parking, to satisfy parking requirements for new development.
  •   Reserves any property acquired on or after September 1, 2019 for municipal parking, such as the former Chase Bank property at 295 New York Avenue, for the purpose of supporting existing businesses and residents.
  •    Special Use Permit rules would not be changed for existing municipal parking lots, so the existing rights of property owners would not be changed.
  • In addition to the newly proposed changes to the Town Code, applications would be required to meet all new requirements and existing C-6 requirements:
  •   Prohibiting upper floors exceeding the footprint of the ground floor;
  •   Requiring buildings to meet height, area and bulk requirements of the zoning district;
  •   Requiring 1 parking space provided on-site for each apartment; and
  •    Prohibiting parking lots and residential apartments on the ground floor of the building.

The Town Board meets Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Town Hall.

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