*** NYS URBAN COUNCIL QUESTION ***
From Jeff House, City of Oneonta Downtown Developer
The City of Oneonta has a couple of vacancies in Main Street storefronts that have been difficult to fill. There has been interest expressed by "social service" type offices to rent these spaces. In the past, the City Planning Commission has reserved these and similar spaces for retail, which is in support of the City Comprehensive Plan from 1995. The city was recently sued under Article 78 for turning down a “social services organization” site plan to use one of these spaces. Under threat of this action, the Planning Commission reversed their decision, against my vocal opposition. Current zoning allows for office use of these spaces. I have recommended that the City pass a moratorium on subsequent office uses in Main Street storefronts until the current Comprehensive Plan update is completed (end of this year).
Question: Does anyone out there have zoning that restricts office use in Main Street type storefronts? Any other creative solutions?
City of Oswego
Why would you not want offices and other "foot traffic" generators in a mix with your retail space?
Jeff House response: We encourage mixed usage in the downtown area. We already have very successful upper floor office and residential use, as well as side street mixed use. The storefronts in question are in a three block area that has been primarily retail for over 75 years. As retail has softened, we are concerned about losing too much space to low usage offices. We are not concerned, and actually encourage upper floor mixed use in this area.
These offices are interested in storefront spaces for the same reason as retailers: exposure. They do not generally add to the customer base. In many cases, these offices are already downtown, but are looking for the advantage of "free advertising" in storefront windows.
On the Town of Riverhead website www.riverheadli.com you can search for DowntownCenter – 1 zoning district and note that office uses are limited to 2nd story and above.
Suggest "Special Uses" or Use Districts or calling the main Street zone a Special Use District, then listing goals & Purposes to reflect the desired mix where you specifically name a laundry list of the uses you want to see there and thus can carve out the uses you don't want by not including them. You can even say in the text what kind of mix you want and what you are trying to avoid and why to "Plan" the end result.
By having a detailed list, which can be quite extensive if you are creative in your description, you can then have the answer of how many options you ARE in fact including as accepted or desired Uses on Main Street and leaving out the social services you don't want. Or you can limit the uses to 2nd floor or the square footage of uses in categories.
We do not.
No comment. I would have to move out of my storefront.
City of Oneida
In Oneida, we don’t have any
Tug Hill Commission
We're not aware of any such zoning examples here. If anything, in the trend to create mixed-use downtowns, I'd say there's a trend away from such restrictions. Office use, even if for social services, fills the space so the property can be maintained and can generate traffic downtown. Even if the clients aren't significant consumers (I don't know what social services use they're considering there--and maybe that brings special considerations), the office workers themselves might eat or shop downtown, or make periodic purchases from the downtown office supply store.
Orion Management Company
Speaking as one who served for several years as Chairman of a County Planning Board, and 7 years as Chairman of a City Planning Commission, I can state that any time you deny a petitioner, you must have specific language in the local zoning law to support that denial, regardless of the use. If the zoning designation allows a building to be used as office space, then you cannot deny a potential office space user because it is a social service agency, or any other type of organization, for that matter. From what I read in the question, there is no doubt that the Oneonta City Planning Commission would have lost the Article 78 proceeding. In addition, the building owner could have sued the City of Oneontafor economic losses by attempting to deny him the opportunity to lease a space to a rent paying tenant. The ultimate legal and financial liability to the City could have been quite substantial. The Planning Commission clearly acted correctly in reversing its position.
Placing a moratorium on new construction or major renovations that change a building's use is sometimes feasible, but placing a moratorium on existing buildings is not. If the City places a moratorium on rental of existing space to office tenants, particularly when the zoning law permits such use, it could expose the City of Oneonta to financial liability for economic losses suffered by building owners as a result of that action. Long term, the zoning law could be revised to permit commercial only, not offices, but remember, you will also be denying lawyers, accountants, doctors, and others from occupying such spaces.
Also, the owners would have "grandfathered" rights that would be difficult to extinguish. There is no way to institute a "no social services type use" provision in a zoning ordinance. Also, such provisions, unless very carefully crafted, can create a lot of undesirable results that were not anticipated.
City of Canandaigua
Canandaigua restricts usage of storefronts in our Business Improvement District to commercial use. For details call our Planner, Rick Brown at 585-396-5000.
Village of Churchville
The Village of Churchville does not.
The Village of Clyde permits a “store front or professional office” on the first floor of downtown buildings. We don’t limit the use to retail only. To my knowledge, other surrounding Villages also allow offices in downtown buildings.
There are plenty of potential office-type uses that fit nicely in a downtown area, including the offices of lawyers, abstract / title companies, accountants, dentists, doctors, etc. The NYS Uniform Code defines a “B” Business occupancy as “the use of a building or structure, or a portion thereof, for office, professional or service-type transactions, including storage of records and accounts.” The Code also gives a list of “business” uses, which includes among others banks, barber and beauty shops, civic administration, fire and police stations, post offices, print shops, professional services. Such uses are considered less of a fire hazard than retail stores, which are classified differently (they are considered “M” Mercantile occupancies).
Village of Fonda
Sorry, but V/Fonda has NO ZONING at all! (We're working on it....just starting up a Planning Committee...)
City of Jamestown
City of Schenectady
Schenectady doesn't regulate retail vs social service or office. It has been recommended by many businesses that we do regulate it.
Our concerns have been on the Jay Street Pedestrian Mall, which has grown much stronger over the past year, but still has a number of vacancies. Lower rents over the years have resulted in 2 churches and a social service type business locating there. On the positive side, they aren't vacant and don't introduce a negative element.
City of Watertown
Canandaigua may have such a restriction, retail on the first floor and office around the corner and upstairs. Contact Sal Pietropaolo, the Director of the Canandaigua Business and Economic Development at 585-396-0300.
Village of Nyack
You might consider calling the New York Council of Mayors.
Ann Hope Ruzow Holland, Community Planning Advisor
You might consider checking with the New York Planning Federation.
Brockport has some zoning requirements that state that a storefront should not be used as a residence. However, we have found that in order to keep our downtown viable, we needed a healthy mix of retail and services. This is what brings people downtown. Otherwise people only go downtown if they have an appointment at the service. If the services exceed the retail then as you know it becomes difficult for anyone to want to go toMain Street to shop, as the shops do not exist.
One suggestion is that when you update your comprehensive plan, allowances are made as to a ratio of services to retail occupancy-insuring a formula. There is some data on this. Scott Winner, Economic Developer of Fairport, would be a good source on this.