Amendments to downtown pattern book code are on hold after business committee raises objections
It’s back to the drawing board for proposed zoning changes that would implement the design guidelines from the Downtown Model Book.
After Riverhead’s Business Advisory Committee objected to sustainability goals and design requirements for new development, members of city council yesterday said they would not move forward on proposed code changes that have made the subject to a public hearing on May 3. The public hearing file was left open for written comments until 4:30 p.m. today.
Councilor Bob Kern, the city council’s liaison to the business advisory committee, said at yesterday’s business session that he wanted to table resolutions adopting the proposed amendments after hearing the committee’s concerns, which were summarized in an email to city council by committee chairman Martin Sendlewski. .
Sendlewski’s email lists the committee’s numerous concerns and objections to the proposed code review, which largely repeat concerns expressed by Sendlewski at last week’s public hearing. Among them:
- Eliminate the 40% green roof mandate, which the committee said would increase construction costs. Instead, the goal of a green roof should be incentive: add 50% of a fifth floor in exchange for a 40% green roof;
- Eliminate the net zero energy standard. “It is expensive and would be a burden on many projects. We encourage energy standards, but we again recommend incentives for them (like the fifth floor),” Sendlewski wrote.
- Maintain 80% lot coverage. The proposed code would allow for 100% coverage of the lot, while reducing the maximum building height to four stories from the current five stories and requiring a 45 degree setback on the fourth floor. One hundred percent coverage of the lot “does not allow for most of the public-private spaces (sidewalk seating, etc.) that the guidelines strive to achieve,” Sendlewski wrote. The current maximum of 80% lot coverage should be retained and the city should “require the use of rain gardens for additional greenery to soften the streetscape. This is a better application of stormwater mitigation than a green roof,” Sendlewski wrote.
Code design requirements are “primarily subjective in nature” and should be guidelines rather than requirements, he wrote. These subjective standards are difficult to define and would limit the “creative design” of buildings that would work well downtown, Sendlewski wrote. The committee advocates eliminating them as requirements, he said.
“As a result of our review, we have, by unanimous majority vote of a quorum present, identified numerous areas of the proposed revisions that are problematic and will cause harm to businesses and landowners in the DC- 1,” Sendlewski wrote.
The proposed code changes would implement the design standards and guidelines from the Downtown Design Book, proposed by the Riverhead Downtown Revitalization Committee and prepared by Urban Design Associates, after significant input from the community gained through meetings and online tools, including two surveys and an interactive map.
The Business Advisory Committee would like to meet with the Downtown Revitalization Committee and Barry Long, who led the pattern book project for Urban Design Associates, Sendlewski wrote.
Kern, a member and chairman of the business advisory committee before his election to city council last year, said at yesterday’s business session that he had already spoken to community development manager Dawn Thomas, who said “she would make it happen”.
Downtown Revitalization Committee Co-Chair James Farley declined to comment yesterday.
The model book, commissioned by City Council in August 2019, was adopted by City Council on January 20, 2021. It includes recommendations for the size, scale and character of future development in the town centre.
Code revisions currently before City Council would implement the design standards and guidelines of the Pattern Book by: limiting building height to four stories or 50 feet high (compared to the current maximum of five stories or 60 feet tall) high); reduce the floor area ratio, which determines the developable area of a property; and requiring certain architectural design elements. Projects already under review before the adoption of the model book would be exempt from the new requirements.
Vocal residents who helped develop the pattern book, including former councilor Catherine Kent, urged council to adopt the code proposal “as is” at the public hearing.
See previous cover: Voice Residents Ask Council to Adopt Pattern Book Code; new parking code needs more work, committee members say
Resolutions adopting the proposed revisions to the code were included in the package of measures considered by the board yesterday for possible vote at its next regular meeting on Wednesday, May 18.
“I think you get consensus that most of us are not happy with the way things are written,” Councilman Ken Rothwell said during the business session.
“So I think we just have to come back to the table, take out the things we want, rewrite them, have a new public hearing and reissue it with some of the corrections,” Rothwell said. “Personally, I think our local downtown businesses don’t have to grow grass on their roofs. I think we went a little too far, you know, on the green side of things for me.
Hubbard and former councilor Jodi Giglio voted against developing a model book for downtown development, an idea brought to the board by the downtown revitalization committee and championed by Kent, who acted as liaison with the committee. Both said they thought it was a wasteful and expensive undertaking. The board of directors voted 3 to 2 to authorize the project.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, in her 2019 campaign to oust then outgoing Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, who supported the pattern book, criticized the administration’s $175,000 investment in the pattern book project, which , she said, was an unnecessary “half-step” that would only delay progress downtown.
Aguiar and Hubbard joined Kent, Rothwell and adviser Frank Beyrodt in adopting the pattern book in January 2021.
In February 2021, the Business Advisory Committee, then chaired by Kern, raised the same objections to lot coverage and favored an incentive-based system for many aspects of the model book, including area ratio to the ground and the limit of four stories and 50 feet. .
The board yesterday agreed to delay voting on proposed revisions to the code pending further discussion at a future business session.
If the proposed code changes are significantly revised, the city council will need to hold another public hearing before adoption.
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