January 28, 2013

Town Zoning Code updated


PLATTSBURGH — The Town of Plattsburgh has an updated Zoning Ordinance. 

Town Planning Department head Philip Von Bargen said the Comprehensive Land Use Plan adopted by the town in 2010 provided the basis to review the zoning code.

A draft of changes was created by a committee of town officials, residents and consultant Stuart Mesinger of the Chazen Companies during a 14-month period.

Public comment on the draft was accepted, then reviewed by Planning Department staff and the consultant. Some of it was incorporated into the final version.

The Town Council completed a State Environmental Quality Review of the proposed changes and adopted the revised ordinance, which took effect Jan. 18.


The new regulations include a section on lighting. Von Bargen said that, in the past, the Planning Board conducted its review of lighting plans based on recommendations for guidelines from his office.

“Many of those guidelines are now part of the code,” he said.

Those provisions are intended to avoid the unnecessary spillover of light from one property to another. The section addresses glare reduction, a more

controlled lighting footprint, reduced lighting intensity and more uniform illumination of a site.


The new ordinance includes areas now zoned for medium-density residential development in the town portion of the former Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corp. site. It would allow construction of multi-family rentals, condominiums and townhouses.

It allows four-dwelling structures on parcels of one-third of an acre (about 15,000 square feet) or larger. Each additional dwelling unit requires 3,500 square feet of land on the parcel.

The areas are along the Sharron Avenue frontage near Montana Drive and near Iowa Circle and Kansas Avenue.

Neighborhood commercial uses are also now accepted in those areas, as well as along Connecticut Avenue and The Barracks golf course.


The town has zoned almost half of the 11 miles of shoreline along the Saranac River as land-conservation property. It restricts development of between 150 feet and 300 feet along the riverbank to mainly recreational uses.

The new designation does allow the land to be used as part of the Saranac River Trail Greenway.

The town has established several well-head protection overlay districts. Those extend 1,000 feet from any of the town’s public-water sources and regulate the types of land uses that can occur.

“Because the town provide water from its own sources, it needs to protect those sources,” Von Bargen said.

The well heads are in Morrisonville, Cadyville and near the Salmon River.


The codes for Planned Development Districts have been totally revamped. Von Bargen said those district were created in an attempt to encourage developers to create a unique project that differs from what zoning codes allow.

That section of the code was revamped when the code was updated in 2000. Von Bargen said they had not approved any applications under those provisions since that time but did have a number of projects that would have called for spot zoning to allow developers to do what they wanted.

The districts are now allowable on parcels of five acres or more in commercial districts or two acres in neighborhood commercial districts.

The unique zoning criteria for a project would require Town Council approval after the Planning Board provides a report to the councilors.

A number of communities, such as Glens Falls, use the districts extensively for projects designed to fill a property. A local example would be the former Ames property on Route 3, Von Bargen said.


In developing parts of the new code, Von Bargen said, the committee looked at the number and types of variances that had been granted by the Town Zoning Board of Appeals.

“What we are seeing with the new ordinance is a likely reduction in the need for variances,” he said.

One example was to increase the allowable height of a building to 60 feet from 40 feet. Another was to increase the allowable size of accessory structures, such as garages, from 50 percent of the primary structure to 100 percent.

Town Code Enforcement Officer Stephen Imhoff said the latter is expected to drastically decrease the number of variance applications filed with his office.

The new code also incorporates provisions from local laws, such as on wood boilers and small wind-energy facilities.

The changes make it easier for town residents and developers to find out what is allowed, he said.


Imhoff said he appreciates the efforts of those who served on the committee.

“This is the vision they want to see in the town for the next 10 years,” he said.

Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett said he is excited the project has been completed. 

“This took a lot of time by our staff and volunteers working with the consultant.”

It provides for controlled, well-planned development and growth in the town, Bassett said. 

“They looked at the current and future needs of the community.”

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