As you are perhaps aware, we had received great interest from planning firms around the region and across the state to help facilitate the redrafting of our zoning ordinances. This has been in discussion for a year or more, as is evidenced by the press release issued after our joint meeting of the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals last summer.
“A joint meeting between the City of Amsterdam’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals was held on Thursday, August 28th and presided over by Mayor Ann Thane. The meeting was called to bring both bodies together to discuss the updating of the City’s zoning maps and legislation and the need to incorporate suggested changes articulated in Amsterdam’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan. “It has become increasingly evident that this work must be done now, given several recent projects that have been brought to the attention of these boards”, said Thane, referring to a proposed biodiesel plant, as well as storage facilities, in areas that are predominantly residential in the Fourth Ward.
Suggestions for change were numerous. The Mayor’s office will ensure that each board member is provided a binder containing contact information of board members & aldermen, relevant Municipal Law & local ordinances, zoning maps, training opportunities, meeting minutes, pertinent resolutions, sample applications, and most importantly, the comprehensive plan. Both boards recognized the need for clarification and simplification of the permitting process. It was agreed that classifications should be added to the schedule of usage, the section of code that explains what structures are appropriate for any given area. Guidelines must be established for the historic overlay districts and the downtown district expanded. The permitting fee structure must be also revisited to reflect a sliding scale for applications and penalties strengthened for work that has occurred without a permit. Planning Commissioner Pam Ritter recognized that “a push for compliance and enforcement is especially important.” It was noted by the group that an effort must be made to educate the public as to the permitting process and that information must be streamlined and easily available to interested parties.”
I am asking that you please contact the aldermen to strongly urge them to proceed with the award of the zoning rehab to HB Solutions. This group had been chosen after a much publicized RFP process – documented in area newspapers and posted to on-line professional associations, and sent to two residents that had expressed interest in this project. The seven responses were reviewed by my office, the City Engineer, URA, and representatives from each of the Planning and Zoning boards. A recommendation was put forward to the Council, was discussed and approved in committee, and allocated for in this year’s budget. A resolution was moved at a Council meeting when it was suddenly suggested that the County facilitate this process.
The County was then contacted and indicated that at the time of the RFP, they could not provide us the service we had requested given the time restraints. There is now talk that they may be able to start our project in a year, perhaps for less money, though the particulars have not been put into writing.
Let me be very clear here: I have great respect for the County.
We are looking at a process that once started may take as long as nine months to complete; I am distressed to think we are now pushing this out almost another two years. Additionally, I would suggest our reputation is once again at risk: we set a dead line, have people expend time and expense to jump through hoops, and then change the game plan.
I had anticipated the County Planning Department would be intimately involved as a partner in this process, but not as the lead in this holistic project. I would suggest that HB Solutions offers a highly qualified, experienced team of professional project managers, economic development planners, architects, and attorneys. Their expertise comes from years of work with municipalities like ours across the state. I feel we are best served in accessing the immediate and exceptional talents, resources and capabilities of the HB team.
My frustration is that we have been trying to move this process forward for so long. At last year’s joint meeting, it was widely recognized that these revisions were needed as soon as possible to address problems mentioned in the excerpt above and in regard to possible revitalization of areas in the City through economic development. My concerns now focus on redevelopment along the River, in our downtown, in residential neighborhoods and at the Esquire site. We have several exciting projects in the works that make this project so necessary.
A resolution has been put forward to move this project forward at Tuesday night’s Council meeting. I hope you will support my efforts to bring positive change to this community. We must not keep putting off what should have been done years ago. The community deserves better.
The contact for the aldermen is as follows:
Joseph Isabel 843-5185
P.O. Box 581, 26 Yale Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010
Daniel V. Roth 542-0723
7 Creekway, Amsterdam, NY 12010
Kim Brumley 843-4311
75 Evelyn Avenue, Amsterdam, NY 12010
William Wills 843-4660
17 Catherine St., Amsterdam, NY 12010
Richard Leggiero 843-0808
101 Florida Ave., Amsterdam, NY 12010
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