The four multifamily developments that have been proposed – the Dayton, Enclave, Ridgewood Station, and Chestnut Village – would exceed the density limits of the area where developers are eying construction, prompting the board to consider a new zone or zones to accommodate the projects.
After forming a subcommittee to study the prospect in July, the board asked Village Planner Blais Brancheau on Monday night to come back with a draft zone for consideration during upcoming public hearings.
The proposed zone would be a “framework” that would likely be tweaked after testimony from applicants and residents, board Chairman Charles Nalbantian said.
“What we’re trying to accomplish and I think what we’re close to accomplishing is bringing that information to a draft amendment to the master plan,” he said.
Some residents have expressed frustration with the process so far, which has offered few opportunities for public comment before official testimony on a zoning change begins. Officials said that moving forward with a draft proposal would give the public input in the process.
“We see the potential there,” said board member Cyril Grant. “We hope that as a united town, we will look into the future and propose solutions that will keep the downtown vibrant.”
The numbers the board
is working with for a new zone include a density of 43 units per acre and a
height range of 45-55 feet.
Height was a sticking point for some, with board member Trisha Connors suggesting that the
height be capped at 50 feet, five feet above the current commercial zone
specification, without any wiggle room for stylistic architectural features.
Nalbantian said that fixing a firm maximum height may encourage developers to construct buildings with flat roofs right at the limit, which may not be in line with the historical character of the downtown.
“One of the concerns I have is ending up in an environment where we have ‘cardboard boxes’ going up,” he said.
Some on the board expressed a need to move forward cautiously, with several repeating that a new zone would have to keep in mind “what’s best for the village,” and that building requirements of the new zone should encourage luxury developments in addition to fulfilling the municipality’s affordable housing obligations, which officials have estimated at between 10 and 20 percent of the total units.
“We’re going to have a conversation, and we don’t want to be locked into anything,” said Mayor Paul Aronsohn, who also sits on the planning board. “My concern is that at the end of the day we wind up with something we already have.”
“If we want to fill this niche of luxury housing, we need to get the density right,” he added, noting that Ridgewood already has low and moderate income residential complexes, but few options for older residents who want to move out of their houses and stay in town.
The board, lately preoccupied
with regular, court-mandated hearings on the proposed Valley hospital
expansion, could see a draft of the new zone as early as Oct. 15, Brancheau
said. The board would likely require at least two meetings to consider the draft before testimony begins.
After that, Nalbantian said, the board will hear testimony by applicants, experts and the general public, and consider the input in deciding whether to pass or modify the planner's draft. The master plan amendment would then require approval with an ordinance passed by the village council.