By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Philipstown’s proposed rezoning will limit but not stop growth and the need for the expanded infrastructure to serve it, according to a “build-out” analysis prepared for the Town Board. The study indicates that under optimal conditions the new zoning would allow construction of 870 new homes, housing an additional 2,228 additional residents, including 996 school-age children, with 1,740 more vehicles making 8,275 more trips per day on local roads. Philipstown will need another four firefighters and two additional police-law enforcement officers to accommodate the expanded population, which also would consume an extra 328,560 gallons of water and generate the same number of gallons in additional sewage per day, the study reported.
Nonetheless, without new zoning laws, the growth and resulting strain on infrastructure would be even higher, the report determined. Under the zoning code currently in place (what the new zoning code would replace), the 21-page study predicts, Philipstown would gain 1,780 new homes; 4,557 new residents; 1,507 school-age children; and 3,560 vehicles making 16,999 more daily trips on local roads, and require five new firefighters and five new law enforcement officers, while consuming 676,400 gallons per day in fresh water and producing the same volume of sewage.
Report analyses potential growth
The town government released the study, prepared by the consulting firm Greenplan, on Nov. 23. “Single-family dwellings typically produce the greatest impact to municipal/school services,” the report stated. Greenplan explained that for the purposes of analysis, “all new residential development is assumed to be single-family homes on lots subdivided in accordance with the proposed Philipstown zoning law, with the exception of the HM and HR Districts, where it is assumed that 15 percent of the units are multi-family.”
Based in Rhinebeck, Greenplan’s consultants wrote in their Introduction that “a build-out analysis provides a peek into the future by examining probable future development intensities and patterns.” Such a review, they said, “estimates the impact of cumulative growth upon a town’s land areas once all the developable land has been consumed and converted to uses permitted under the current (or proposed) regulatory framework. It helps residents to visualize the patterns of growth permitted by the zoning and is a ‘test’ to see if the goals of the community’s Comprehensive Plan are working.”
Adopted in 2006 after five years of public meetings, consultation, and work by citizen committees, the Philipstown Comprehensive Plan seeks to “conserve Philipstown’s rural, historic and river-community character,” enhance its socio-economic diversity, expand recreational opportunities, “control real property taxes and ensure they are reasonable and equitable; – protect Philipstown’s natural resources; improve both the safety and aesthetics of roads, “locate new development where it can be supported by existing infrastructure” and streamline the governmental approval process. As the plan points out, in order for its recommendations to take hold, they “must be translated into zoning laws.”
Nine zoning districts
Hence the planned rezoning and build-out analysis of what the rezoning might bring – or prevent. The rezoning would establish nine districts:
1. Rural Conservation (RC), “to promote land conservation, agriculture, forestry, recreation, and the preservation of open space, as well as other compatible rural uses, by encouraging such activities and by discouraging large-scale residential development, while allowing low-density residential uses.”
2. Institutional Conservation (IC), “to preserve existing institutional uses of property of 20 acres or more that maintain significant amounts of contiguous open space and/or historic structures.”
3. Rural Residential (RR), for “residential uses in a rural setting at a lower density than is allowed in the hamlets.”
4. Hamlet Residential (HR), with “the traditional scale, density, and character of residential hamlets such as Continental Village, as well as residential neighborhoods surrounding designated hamlet-mixed use areas.”
5. Hamlet-Mixed Use (HM), for “creation and expansion of hamlets in the traditional scale, density, architectural style, and mixed-use character of the existing hamlets of Garrison and Garrison Landing and of the Villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville.”
6. Suburban Residential (SR), “to maintain the character of existing suburban density residential developments and to allow a limited extension of suburban growth patterns.”
7. Highway Commercial (HC), for “commercial uses that rely heavily on automobile and truck access and that would not be compatible with a hamlet mixed-use area.”
8. Office-Commercial-Industry-Mixed Use (OC), “for light industrial, service commercial, office, and research facilities,” along with, “where compatible, housing and limited retail commercial development intended to support the primary uses or to provide adaptive re-uses for existing commercial or industrial buildings.”
9. Industrial-Manufacturing (M), for “industrial and related uses that are not compatible with most commercial, office, or residential uses, in isolated and well-buffered locations.”
Eight overlay districts
Moreover, to “provide additional protection of important environmental resources” as well as “permit certain types of economically productive uses that would not otherwise be allowed,” the draft rezoning superimposes eight “overlay districts, – including one added at the end of November to cover historic significant estates. The eight overlays:
- Floodplain (FPO), “to control development within the 100-year floodplain in order to minimize flood damage and protect water resources.”
- Cold Spring Watershed (WSO), “to protect the water supply of the Villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville, which includes the entire watershed of Foundry Brook.”
- Aquifer (AQO), encompassing the entire town, “to protect groundwater resources that provide drinking water for private wells and” could later “provide public water supplies.”
- Open Space Conservation (OSO), to offer special protection for tracts of 30 or more acres found on the Philipstown Open Space Index.
- Scenic Protection (SPO), “to protect the character of scenic resources in the town, including designated scenic road corridors and the Hudson River viewshed.”
- Soil Mining (SMO), “to provide appropriate locations for soil mining to occur where landowners can achieve a reasonable return on their land from sand and gravel mining” without adverse impacts on their neighbors.
- Mobile Home Park (MHO), to cover “appropriate locations for mobile home parks.”
- Historic Preservation Adaptive Re-use Overlay (HPO) “to allow use-flexibility for the adaptive re-use of buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places that are on parcels of 15 acres or more, in order to provide economically viable ways to rehabilitate, maintain, and re-use them.”
Likely build-out implications
To assess likely build-out implications, Greenplan considered total acreage in the town and subtracted areas used in existing development, including roads, as well as those used for parks, easements, and similar public lands, and those that contain wetlands, steep slopes, and similar natural features that constrain construction. It then looked at the likely effects of the proposed rezoning, district by district, as relevant.
Greenplan focused on residential development, not commercial expansion, except for what might occur in the hamlet-mixed use district. It found that the largest number of new homes, 270, could be built in the Rural Conservation district and that the next-highest number, 246 new homes, could sprout in the Open Space Conservation Overlay area. The Rural Residential District could get 203 new dwellings, the Hamlet Residential District could get 76, and the Hamlet Mixed-Use District could get 39, according to the analysis. Greenplan also determined that “many parcels in the HM and HR Districts are currently developed at their fullest permitted density.” Thus the build-out reviewed vacant and “under-developed” lands – those that could still be subdivided under the new zoning laws.
The study projected only 7 new homes in the Institutional Conservation District but found 29 homes could be built in so-called “undeveloped permitted building” sites - on properties owned by land trusts-preserves. Green Plan also noted that although the proposed new zoning allows construction by special permit of new houses in the Highway Commercial (HC) and Office-Commercial-Industry-Mixed Use districts, “there is likely to be only minimal residential development in those districts.” Because the area that would become the Suburban Residential (SR) district “is primarily built out” already, it likewise does not figure in the build-out analysis.
Proposed zoning offers options for landowners
Greenplan found that “the proposed zoning offers a wide variety of options for landowners. Consequently, how the Town is built-out in the future will depend upon landowner choices, in addition to other factors such as the availability or construction of infrastructure, particularly municipal or common water and-or sewer. The range of possibilities “complicates the estimate of residential build-out.” Furthermore, Greenplan cautioned, “the analysis did not take into account the possibility that large parcels may be acquired for conservation purposes by non-profits or for state parks, as has historically occurred in the town. While there is no way to predict whether this will continue to occur in the future, the preservation of large parcels would reduce the actual build-out.”
The rezoning, build-out analysis, and Philipstown Comprehensive Plan only cover those areas not part of the villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville. Cold Spring is working on its own Comprehensive Plan.
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