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Sackets zoning plan criticized for added leeway

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SACKETS HARBOR — Outgoing mayor F. Eric Constance criticized a proposed zoning law at a village Board of Trustees public hearing Wednesday, arguing that it would give officials too much discretion over approving projects.

“There are some things in this law that are becoming too subjective here, and it doesn’t sit right with me,” said Mr. Constance, who didn’t seek re-election in November. “This is a process that should be very easy for someone to go through and totally understand. I think we should wait for some (project) applications to be reviewed under the new law, then let residents decide if it’s better.”

The board took no action on the proposal after listening to comments at the meeting attended by about 10 residents. The board could vote as soon as Tuesday during its regular meeting, contingent upon village attorney David B. Geurtsen’s final review of the law.

Some board members said they are anxious to approve the 144-page law, which is the product of about six years of labor.

Village resident Thomas E. Dyckes urged the board to avoid further delay.

“This project has been going on for years and has input from a lot of folks,” he said. “It’s an improvement from the current law, and at this point we have to take some action.”

The law would define the following zoning districts:

n The village center district would allow for mixed-use buildings in the vicinity of West Main Street.

n The village residential district would be tailored toward the high-density of houses, many of which have historic value.

n The rural conservation district would be a greenbelt around the core area of the village with a lower density of houses as well as agricultural land with preservation value.

In addition, a historic preservation overlay district would overlap the village center, village residential and planned development districts. Planned development districts that have already been approved would continue to be in place.

The current 26-year-old law makes no provision for special zoning permits. But the new law would grant the zoning officer and the Planning Board the authority to grant permits for a variety of uses within the newly defined zones, said David W. Alteri, the village’s heritage area director, who led the development of the new law.

The Planning Board could issue a special permit, for example, for a dentist’s office or an apartment building to be established in the residential district if the building has a character similar to neighborhood houses, Mr. Alteri said. Or, a business could be established in the rural conservation district, he said, if the Planning Board decides the building looks like rustic structures in that area.

For instance, “we had a microbrewery building that someone wanted to build out there in 2009, but the current law wouldn’t allow it,” he said. “But the new law would have, because the building would have looked similar to a barn.”

“We tried to find a the middle ground with this law, because it gives the board discretion to make decisions but doesn’t include too many” regulations.

The document is available online at http://wdt.me/WCMQnb.

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