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FAQ: The New Village Code Explained

Posted on 12 February 2009

The new village zoning code has undergone several revisions since it was first made public in the spring of 2008. However, the intent of the code has remained the same. The code aims to preserve the historic feel of the village and also codify a process for building applications for the building inspector and village boards.

In recent months, this document has come under fire during a series of public forums and hearings conducted by the village board of trustees. The code has subsequently been revised based on the public comments generated at these sessions.

The four major revisions to the code so far concerned second floor usage, the limitations of the Architectural Review Board’s jurisdiction, changes in Certificate of Occupancy policy and day care center and bed and breakfast neighbor notification within 500 feet. A revised version of the code has yet to be printed for the public. Following the public hearing on Friday, February 13, the village will print an amended edition of the code.

Although it is difficult to synthesize a 273-page legal document, the Express tried to explain some of the more confusing elements of the proposed new code. The public hearing will be held at 5:00 p.m. in the Municipal Building. All interested citizens are invited to attend.

 

1) What are permitted second floor uses in the Village Business District?

This section of the code was recently revised. In the original version of the proposed code, an office was allowed to operate on the second floor only if it was an accessory office to the ground floor business. Retail use on the second floor, however, was allowed in the first edition of the new code.

A second floor space, above the ground floor business, in the village business district may be used for residential, office or retail purposes – under the new village zoning code. However, when a second floor use changes, a new certificate of occupancy must be granted by the building department.

For example, The Express owns an apartment above our ground floor office. This space may be leased to a business, for example a non-profit organization. After this organization’s lease had expired, The Express could later rent out the space to an art gallery.

Certain cases, like a conversion from an apartment to an office or retail store, might trigger a site plan review before the planning board as the changes in use might increase the need for parking and sewage.

    

2) Under the new zoning code, does the Architectural Review Board have the ability to judge interior alterations in retail spaces?

The ARB does have the ability to judge interior alterations if these alterations are visible from the street. These alterations would have to be deemed architecturally incongruous, by the ARB, with the historical character of the village.

The ARB cannot, however, judge the merchandise found in the store, even if these items are visible from the street.

For example, if there was a painting of a nude in a storefront, the ARB would not have the jurisdiction to have this piece of merchandise removed from the storefront. But, if this same store had a built-in display case, painted in a bright orange, and the display case was visible from the street, the ARB could have this removed or altered.

Normally, this type of code enforcement is driven by resident complaints to the building inspector. The building inspector would then notify the store and ask them to receive ARB approval for the display.

 

3) Does the ARB have any jurisdiction over the type of use in a space?

According the village, the ARB has no jurisdiction over approving or denying a use. The ARB’s jurisdiction is limited to the exterior architectural structure of the building, and the interior structures that are visible from the street. An application, calling for an expansion over 2,000 square feet or 75 feet of frontage, must be reviewed by the ARB The board would review the architectural alterations to the space, which would include signage, materials used, color schemes and design. This type of application would also be subject to site plan review. This is the same process as in the current code.

 

4) Why was the Office District created?

According to the village, their intention in creating the Office District was to maintain Main Street as a destination for pedestrian traffic. The village says additional offices on Main Street, beyond what already exists, might dampen pedestrian traffic. Offices tend to be closed in the evenings and during the weekend. Whereas retail establishments are more likely to keep later hours to service pedestrians just leaving a movie or finishing dinner at a Main Street restaurant.

When creating the Office District, the village analyzed the areas of office concentration in the village, which are mainly located on the roads surrounding Main Street. A majority of the properties in the proposed Office District already operate as offices.

On Main Street, there are nearly 18 offices currently in operation. If the new code is passed, these offices will be allowed to continue operation, and landlords would be allowed to sell or rent their office space to another office business. However, if this office space is later sold or rented to a retail business, the space could no longer be converted to an office.

For example, under the new code, Apple Bank could sell their space to HSBC Bank. But, if HSBC sold, and the location became a stationary store, it could not be used as a bank again.

 

5) Why isn’t there a fee schedule for applications?

There are many reasons why the village is unable to implement a fee schedule for outside consultants to review applications. Firstly, the village lacks the staff to specifically deal with applications and ascertain a fair and accurate fee schedule. Currently, the village must hire outside consultants for site plan reviews, whereas East Hampton and Southampton towns both have full time engineering and planning staff available. The village adds it is unfair to create a fixed fee schedule that would be applicable to both smaller and larger projects.

Say, a fixed fee schedule was set at $5,000. A smaller project, like a retail store expansion, would then have to pay $5,000, but a larger project, like a condominium development, would also pay $5,000.

All site plan review applications are sent to village planning consultant Richard Warren, who determines if the application needs further review. Almost 90% of applications require no further review, the exceptions are often larger, and more complicated, projects. Each site plan application, however, will have a pre-submission conference with village officials, most likely Warren and village attorney Anthony Tohill. During these meetings, the applicant will be given a general idea of the consultants’ hourly fees and an estimation of the amount of time the review will take.

 

6) What is the process for expanding and changing the uses of a space in the village business district?

An application for an expansion up to 3,000 square feet or a change of use to a permitted use for an existing space over 3,000 square feet, which doesn’t have an increased parking requirement, sewage demands, or gross floor area expansion, wouldn’t require a site plan review. Instead, the planning board would grant a site plan review waiver. If this type of space was changing to a special exception use, the application would be subject to a site plan and special exception review.

If the American Hotel, for example, which is over 3,000 square feet, wanted to be converted into a retail store, this change probably wouldn’t trigger a site plan review because the criteria for parking and sewage usage would decrease.

An expansion of an existing space over 3,000 square feet would require a site plan review and would be limited to an expansion no greater than 8,000 square feet. Only a grocery store, home furnishing/ décor store and hardware would be allowed to operate from this space. An expansion from 2,500 to 4,500 square feet would also be subject to these requirements.

 

7) What are some of the other major revisions to the proposed village zoning code?

When a property in the village changes ownership the Certificate of Occupancy must be updated, as is the case under the current code. Under the new village zoning code, a new owner would have 30 days after moving into the property to obtain an updated Certificate of Occupancy.

The building inspector is also required to address a Certificate of Occupancy request within 30 days, from the time it was first requested. If the building inspector fails to notify the owner after 30 days, they are given a default Certificate of Occupancy.

Another major revision to the code deals with Day Care Centers and Bed and Breakfast establishments. The neighbors within 500 feet of a proposed day care center or bed and breakfast must be notified before this business is in operation. This allows their neighbors to officially express any concerns over the business with the village. The owners of a day care center and bed and breakfast will also be required to renew their special exception permit every two years.

 

8) Under the new code, what will happen to the village parking trust fund?

The parking trust fund will be eliminated if the new zoning code is adopted. The monies that have been collected over the years will hopefully be used to create additional parking in the village.

Currently, for example, if you converted a residential second floor apartment into an exercise studio, you would need to create additional parking spaces. If you were unable to create these parking spaces on site, you would need a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and would need to pay money into the parking trust for each additional parking space. Under the new code, you would still need a variance for this additional parking, but wouldn’t be required to put money into a trust.

 

 

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