100 Ideas for New Paltz

6. protect wetlands in the village

Posted in environment, planning and construction, stormwater, wallkill river, zoning by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Protect the environment and reduce flooding by passing a wetlands and watercoures protection law. Much of the work on this legislation has already been done.

In 2005 I revised the wetlands law passed by the Town to fit the needs of the Village – notably strengthening the enforcement provisions by eliminating the option to pay a fee in order to mitigate damage to wetlands.  I brought that law to the Village Board, where Michael Zierler suggested that we set up a task force to review the law and see if it met the village’s needs and if, in fact, we needed a law at all.  That task force – made up of myself, Colin Apse of the Nature Conservancy, Rachel Lagodka of the Environmental Commission and Laura Heady of the Hudson River Estuary Program – unanimously recommended that a local law was our best option for protecting wetlands.

Simply put, the law requires that anyone who wants to build near a wetland has to have that wetland checked out first — if there is no harm in building whatever is in question, then the project goes through the normal process.  If there would be harm to the project, the project has to be redesigned to avoid that harm, or the person in question can’t build what they want.

In order to find where there may be wetlands, we hired Hudsonia, Ltd to perform two wetland habitat assessments – one for the proposed Millbrook Greenway area, and one for the village as a whole.  Hudsonia’s maps showed several areas of the village where there were potentially important wetlands complexes — on the Woodland Pond/Stoneliegh Woods properties, along the Wallkill River, especially the Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary and around the Rail Trail south of Water Street and others.

Due to criticism that the law could be difficult to understand procedurally, I created a simple flow chart to guide prospective builders through the process.

Finally, in order to make sure there were no unnecessary hoops for builders, I wrote a seperate Wetlands Protection Overlay District law that made sure that the wetlands law itself only applied to specific properties.  Those properties were the ones that had potential wetland, streams, river or buffer area somewhere on the property, according to Hudsonia.


16. pay for new village offices with development rights

Posted in infrastructure, planning and construction, zoning by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Use the money earned through these shovel-ready buildings to pay for the demolition and re-location of Village Hall and the DPW

19. develop a northern gateway into the village along route 32 north

Re-zone Route 32 North between the Salvation Army and Agway as high-density, mixed use development like downtown. This work was started several years ago; including having a well attended community visioning session and an initial report from Behan Planning, the firm hired by the Village to manage the project.


20. grow the downtown uptown

Re-zone Route 299 between the Teen Seen and the Thruway to require mixed use, walkable, high-density development. This should include retrofitting the Ames Plaza, Cherry Hill Plaza and Eckerd’s Plaza into mixed-use buildings by adding two-three stories of apartments on top of the strip malls.


21. grow the downtown up towards the college

Re-zone Plattekill Avenue from downtown to the college as mixed use, traditional neighborhood development.

plattekill ave

22. make ohioville a hamlet again

Re-zone the area around the intersection of Route 299, North Ohioville, Plutarch and South Ohioville into a mixed-use, high density neighborhood development


23. make the gateway district mixed use

Make the village Gateway District around Water Street Market and the Gilded Otter into walkable, mixed use, traditional neighborhood development, rather than a commercial-only district.

26. shift from use-based zoning to form-based zoning

Replace the Town and Village use-based zoning codes with more flexible, organic form-based zoning codes. A form-based code is defined by the Form-Based Code Institute as:

A method of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form. Form-based codes create a predictable public realm primarily by controlling physical form, with a lesser focus on land use, through city or county regulations.

Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in Form-based codes, presented in both diagrams and words, are keyed to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) of development rather than only distinctions in land-use types. This is in contrast to conventional zoning’s focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., FAR, dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic LOS) to the neglect of an integrated built form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, Form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory.”

One fine example of a form-based code is the SmartCode.  The developers of the SmartCode explain it’s use this way,

“Conventional zoning separates uses, forcing everyone to drive to work and shopping and creating traffic congestion, while only minimally regulating form. Parking lots and curb cuts are allowed to dominate the frontages, creating a hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

The SmartCode regulates form more strongly to enhance pedestrian safety and enjoyment, and to structure networks of streets that relieve traffic congestion. The SmartCode does address use, but the Transect zones signify different intensities of mixed use. Notice that in the Retail illustration, which shows a typical T-5 zone, the SmartCode allows Residential along with the Retail, in the form of apartments over shops. This helps keep housing affordable and enables “eyes on the street,” walkability, and vibrant downtowns.”


27. lower rent

According to the 200 census, the Village of New Paltz has a .46% vacancy rate for rental housing. Studies have shown that a community needs at least a 5% vacancy rate to avoid inflation of housing prices. At a 5% rate, land-lords have to compete for tenants just enough that they maintain their properties better and keep prices reasonably low and affordable. Using development of high-density, mixed use neighborhoods, build enough new housing to establish a 5% vacancy rate.

28. keep buildings near the street

Posted in planning and construction, smart growth, zoning by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Set maximum, rather than minimum setbacks and sidelot requirements in the Village and Ohioville