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EVA to host public meeting regarding new zoning ordinance | Buffalo Rising

EVA to host public meeting regarding new zoning ordinance

If you haven’t had a chance to brush up on the Buffalo Green Code, here is a link to a PDF, which will hopefully catch you up with some of the issues that are scheduled to be discussed at the next public meeting regarding Buffalo’s New Zoning Ordinance. The meeting, to be held on January 26 from 10am to 11:30am at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, is sponsored by the Elmwood Village Association, and should help to make clear the City of Buffalo’s new zoning ordinance, while addressing public comments.

Many of us are familiar with many of the controversies that have surrounded development proposals (that never got built) and completed builds (that never should have been built in the city). Seeing as this public meeting is being sponsored by the EVA, I’m sure that much of the discussion will revolve around various past, current and future Elmwood projects. 
We can look back at the hotel that never got built at the corner of Elmwood and Forest, and then on to more current projects such as the new Children’s Hospital development site, and the new Benchmark building in the parking lot across from Blockbuster (soon to be Panera Bread). Up until now these zoning ordinance issues have been confusing and outdated. 
How can we move forward with the right projects, and what sort of standards will be in place that dictate what those projects will look like? What makes a neighborhood walkable? What should commercial signage look like? Is there a restriction on the number of restaurants allowed in a neighborhood? What are the building size restrictions? What will parking standards be? These are questions that have been discussed over and over, without having any sort of real guidelines to follow. 
WHAT’S HISTORY
- Rules do not address what people want to see in their neighborhoods.
- Developers are required to emulate the suburbs.
- Vague and discretionary requirements make development difficult.
- Standards are derived from boilerplate zoning templates.
- Rules focus intensely on separating uses, regardless of their compatibility.
- The design of streets and open spaces is not addressed.
- Neighbors fear development because standards and procedures provide inadequate safeguards.
- Standards are written in inaccessible legal jargon.
WHAT’S NEXT
+ The community’s vision is reflected.
+ Clear, objective requirements bring clarity and predictability.
+ A “form-based” approach makes it easier to adapt to an evolving economy.
+ Neighbors have certainty about what can and cannot be built next door.
+ Pedestrian-friendly development is allowed.
+ Standards are based on regional character and building traditions.
+ Transportation choices and a high quality public realm are priorities.
+ Graphics, tables, and simple text make standards easy to understand and apply.
*The Elmwood Village Association will explain some of the changes that will occur as a result of Green Code and will seek the public’s comments on the draft ordinance. More than 10 years ago, the Elmwood Village Association embarked on an effort to establish the Elmwood Village Design Standards, the City of Buffalo’s first set of standards for progressive urban development. The Design Standards were the result of extensive collaboration with the Elmwood Village community; the Standards will be replaced by the Green Code.

About the author  ⁄ queenseyes

Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Catalyst behind the Pierce-Arrow Film Arts Center. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette. Themed New Years mayhem at various locations. Next up: Porchfest... Also offers package tours of the city for groups or individuals. Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

30 comments
townline
townline

Counties don't have zoning ordinances. It would be up to each municipality.

Khmylevs_Heroes
Khmylevs_Heroes

Would Erie County ever adopt a zoning ordinance that resembles this Green Code? Or, will we always have to settle for such poor design when we go out to the Blvd or Transit?

whatever
whatever

js - thanks for that link, that's what I was asking about.

(I swear I looked for link to it on Green Code website Land Use part and didn't notice it before… it didn't occur to me that the map would be under the 'Documents' item there, but now I see it)

whatever
whatever

Your square-foot view of property tax conveniently ignores big realities:

1.) if Wegmans and Tops had been banned from building a bigbox in the city as you advocate, they likely would've built not far north of the city boundary, say in Kenmore or Tonawanda. Many people from the city such as me (and maybe even you, since you say you shop there too) would make those purchases outside the city, the Wegmans jobs would be outside the city, and the Wegmans and Tops municipal property tax bills would be paid to Kenmore or Tonawanda - not to Buffalo.

2.) There's an excess capacity of commercial space in the city, so it isn't as though bigboxes like Wegmans on Amherst St are preventing any higher-property-tax-per-sq-foot small sized businesses selling higher priced items from being in the city elsewhere.

There's plenty of vacant storefronts in all parts of the city for the types of more specialized smaller stores you mentioned. So, yes, the city has plenty of room for both - Wegmans-Tops-Target-HomeDepot bigboxes and for small Hodge Liquors, Ambrosia, Village Beer Merchant, expensive vinegar stores, spice stores, gourmet items, jewelry, ...

whatever
whatever

"Wegmans does not encourage people to walk."

Daniel - first of all, a lot of walking happens within that store.

And regarding walking outside of it - some shoppers at stores like Wegmans are elderly, or are bringing along multiple toddlers/babies or elderly relatives, or are physically challenged, or for other reasons don't find it easy to walk longer outdoor distances to stores as you advocate - especially in rain or times of negative wind chill.

Also, even when outdoor walking is no problem, single women or others who shop alone late at night due to their schedules might not prefer for safety reasons to have to walk to a store, even when the weather is nice which it isn't always. Others might be in a hurry even if daylight and nice weather.

There are many to-the-sidewalk stores for _you_ to walk to if you want to.

Not far from EV, you can walk down Lafayette to Guercio's. (you can even shield your eyes from its parking lot right across Grant from it)

Or directly on Elmwood you can walk to other food stores built-to-the-sidewalk, including for 3 examples - the Lex co-op, the the 24 Hour We-Never-Close store at Bird, or the Elmwood Market near North St.

Not every store should have to be walker-friendly just because moralizers say so.

Choice is good. Diversity of options is good.

Trying to force your preferences for allowing only walker-friendly stores onto all other city residents by rule of zoning law for every single street, block, and parcel across every square inch of the whole city isn't good. That would be extremist zealotry if it was forced for the entire 52 square miles of Buffalo.

Up and coming
Up and coming

You guys need all the help you can get, HEYOOOOOOO! Just kidding, Scott.

Sam
Sam

I understand what you're saying but saying that Wegmans does not encourage people to walk is unfair. Food shopping, on principal, (depending on the number of people you shop for) does not encourage people to walk. That's hardly the store's fault.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Black Rock is the only "authentic" village in Buffalo, we were actually a rival village of Buffalo and maintained our independence until 1853. I think any neighborhood that wants to use "village" or "town" should pay a tribute to Black Rock, cash or checks will be fine. :)

Daniel Sack
Daniel Sack

There must be more than one meeting regarding the so-called GreenCode and Elmwood. There were many meetings with input from scores of residents and business owners to establish the Elmwood Village Design Standards. Some aspects of the GreenCode (ie: signs) have never been discussed at public hearings. There is no reason to hurry this process. More meetings are essential.

Up and coming
Up and coming

Allentown is much of a town, than Elmwood is a village. But, to your questions, we should call it the Elmwood strip, which it is.

LouisTully
LouisTully

By the same token, Allentown is not a town. What, your excellency in all things, shall we call it?

Up and coming
Up and coming

Can we stop saying "Elmwood Village" already. It's really not a village and doesn't feel like a village either. I myself grew up in the Village of Lakewood and Elmwood is no where near the same.

JSmith
JSmith

Yes, like I said: "Go to the Buffalo Green Code website and look at the various maps under the Land Use Plan section. That shows the draft zoning maps."

Here's a direct link to the draft land use maps (shows existing zoning and proposed future zoning). Note that it is a large (32 MB) PDF.

http://www.buffalogreencode.com/Appx1MappingAnalysis.pdf

Daniel Sack
Daniel Sack

Wegmans is a terrific store, as big box stores go. I shop there too. Much better than their competition; good product, good prices, good to their employees. But they are a big box store. They rely on an auto-centric environment that is bad for our environment. I know - cars are not going away. But we should do what we can to support a "green" place, where people are encouraged to walk, not drive. Wegmans does not encourage people to walk.

Wegmans is not good for our tax base. From the online Erie County database Wegmans assessment is $8.83/SF. The mixed use, multi-story, no parking, built to the sidewalk building at the SE corner of Elmwood and Bryant is assessed at $74.86/SF. 8.8 times more than Wegmans on Amherst Street! Home Depot on Elmwood $11.56/SF. 459 Elmwood (Hodge Liquors, Ambrosia) $57.96/SF.

Locally owned stores give back more money to the local economy. Block Club magazine had an excellent analysis of this in a recent issue. Before there were big box chain stores we had more pharmacies, florists, fish markets, butcher shops, bakeries, lumber yards, hardware stores, appliance stores...that people could walk to. Most of them are out of business because we allow buildings with huge parking lots that contribute less to our property tax base and force families to have more automobiles so we can save a little at the checkout register. I wonder if what we save at Wegmans and Best Buy is equal to what we pay for extra automobiles.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

I did say Wegmans helped, I agree even a few are a win for the neighborhood business district. Many people wouldn't venture into Black Rock if not for the store and they would be unaware of all the neighborhood has to offer. Of course for the majority of shoppers Wegmans is a single destination by car.

I also agree the well traveled area around Wegmans contributes to the image of a safe atmosphere, Grant St near the Showplace appears uninviting and rough due to the lack of activity. If Wegmans was closer to the street I think it is reasonable to say all those extra eyes on the street would actually enhance safety and security.

whatever
whatever

I like the front parking there, but even if they had put the parking in the back that seems separate from Daniel's argument against it based on store size which I'm taking strong issue with.

About "how many venture west" to businesses there, as long as it's more than zero that would make Wegmans somewhat of a catalyst. Even if say only a few dozen a week from among the thousands notice Goldman's restaurant near there, or Ethiopian takeout, or a storefront gallery, or Sportsmen's… then decide to also become customers of those, it can really add up over weeks, months, years - then can multiply if while at any of those some other nearby businesses which catch their interest.

it might be a little strong to say Wegmans is a true anchor the way Tops is for smaller stores in strip plazas at Grant or across from Home Depot - but it seems pretty close to that impact.

Another benefit is increased traffic after dark on Amherst of people going to/from Wegmans contributes to image of a safe atmosphere around there - compared to say around the corner a ways north on Grant near the Showplace where there's much less traffic especially after dark - more of an isolated image, and (coincidentally or not) more vacancy, less businesses opening.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Wegmans does indeed bring people to the neighborhood, not sure how many venture west to the heart of the neighborhood though. We love Wegmans, my wife is a regular and I am glad we have the store in Black Rock. That said I had hoped they would build closer to Amherst St as many in the neighorhood advocated for. I am sure the store could have thrived even with parking behind the building. This design would have integrated the store into the adjoining business district and accomodated the pedestrians as well as cars. Fronting on Amherst St would also bring a presence of people and activity making the street safer and more inviting.

whatever
whatever

BRL>"not the catalyst for development"

That "the" would imply there's only one, and I doubt anyone would seriously argue that there can be only one catalyst.

But Daniel said Wegmans isn't "a catalyst", which I'd think is a very incorrect claim considering the thousands of people Wegmans attracts per day - every day of the year - to Amherst St who wouldn't ever otherwise go there.

I'd bet a huge number of city residents are glad that Buffalo's city government allowed a big Wegmans within city limits even if Daniel still wishes they hadn't allowed it here. Same for Target, the Tops big stores, Home Depot, etc.

That said, it could also be reasonable to set aside some blocks in the city to not allow that kind of bigbox store size. However, the 2,500 square foot limit seems too extremely small a limit for Elmwood. Wouldn't that even outlaw sizes such as the Lexington Co-op, and the Blockbuster-soon-to-be-Panera's, and the Price Rite, and even SPoT Coffee?

(someone can correct me if I'm mistaken about sq ft sizes - but aren't those are all larger than 2,500 sq ft?)

whatever
whatever

True, if they'll display maps at the meeting then I could go and see it there.

Still, I'd figure there might be some interest in seeing it by people who can't attend even though it's on a Saturday, or some expats who take interest in what goes on here but can't make the trip back for the meeting.

So I was just wondering if maps exist of proposed zones, then in spirit of public access why wouldn't those be posted online somewhere?

Or maybe they are posted online already somewhere I didn't see - thus, the question.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

The success of Amherst Street is due mainly to the grass roots efforts of many business owners, residents, and community activists. The street was ripe for reuse because many of the great old turn of the century store interiors were fairly intact. They had been mothballed for decades as the old time businesses faded away. The low rents were also a draw as well as the attractive streetscape and convenient location. I think Wegmans certainly helped but I agree it was not the catalyst for developement.

Daniel Sack
Daniel Sack

Penzey's is a small store. Is it ruining the neighborhood? I don't think so. I'm more concerned about the large stores, even local large stores. National chain is secondary. I would not prohibit national chains - I did not object to Starbucks; I don't eat there, but I don't think national chains should be outlawed. But yes, large stores put small stores out of business. Think about Wegman's. Think how many businesses a store like that replaced. I do not believe it is a catalyst for development on Amherst Street.

EB_Blue
EB_Blue

I'm a little skeptical of that argument, even as a die hard "localvore."

If it held water, suburban malls wouldn't have larger stores to drive business to all the smaller stores. The larger stores are so valuable for pedestrian traffic generation that they rarely pay rent in a suburban shopping center. That's likely one of the missing draws on Elmwood. A mix of choices would be nice, be they local or national.

Also, most national chains are small. Is Penzey's Spices really ruining the neighborhood?

Daniel Sack
Daniel Sack

It is good that several provisions of the Elmwood Village Design Standards (EVDS)are incorporated into the drafts of the GreenCode.

But one provision that predates the EVDS is missing. Since 1977, when residents were concerned about over-development of Elmwood, there has been a limit of 2,500 SF for a business (5,000 SF on two floors).

This provision inhibits some businesses from building on Elmwood, but considering that Elmwood has been so prosperous it doesn't seem to have hurt the neighborhood. I argue that this very progressive provision has helped Elmwood be the vital neighborhood it is. Small locally owned businesses could develop without the risk of a large national chain interfering.

And also important is that when that larger business goes out of business there is not an 80 foot wide empty storefront - a barrier to a walkable community.

JSmith
JSmith

Go to the Buffalo Green Code website and look at the various maps under the Land Use Plan section. That shows the draft zoning maps.

"EV-inspired" form requirements will apply in all of the traditional mixed-use business strips of the city. Certain areas like Delaware and Elmwood in North Buffalo are designated as "retail centers" and will allow big box car-oriented development, but with design standards to mitigate against the problems that this type of development can create.

STEEL
STEEL

It is a Saturday - That is probably easy form most people

whatever
whatever

A question is how "much of the rest of the city" the new EV-inspired zone type will apply to. That PDF linked above describes about 30 new types of zones, including N-2P zone which it says "will address mixed-use centers in Buffalo’s oldest neighborhoods, such as Allentown, Black Rock, and Elmwood Village".

What is doesn't have is a city map showing where all the different new zone types would be in effect.

Does anybody know if that kind of map has been made or released anywhere yet?

grad94
grad94

delighted to see lafayette pres hosting this but i have a day job. any evening presentations scheduled?

also, the demise of the planned hotel at elmwood & forest had nothing to do with our zoning code, as bad as it presently is. it had to do with deed restrictions.

EB_Blue
EB_Blue

I'm encouraged the Green Code will be incorporating and updating the Elmwood Village Design Standards and will be using the standards as a model for much of the rest of the city. This change is long (60 years) overdue! I'll be at the meeting for sure!

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