Historic Update Will “Unleash the Potential” of Albany
Albany, NY--Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced the launch of ReZone Albany-The Vibrant City Initiative, a historic process to improve Albany’s dated zoning code in order to reduce burdens for small business owners and make the city a better place to live, work, and invest. Simplifying and modernizing Albany’s zoning and regulations is expected to encourage investments by homeowners, landlords, small businesses, and developers, making Albany more economically vibrant and attractive.
The City also announced that it has hired Clarion Associates, a nationally recognized planning and land-use firm, to lead the undertaking. The initiative will include an extensive outreach component embracing community-wide participation, education, and an evaluation process that will involve numerous meetings, workshops, and public hearings.
“This is long overdue,” said Mayor Sheehan, “and a change that will unleash the potential in Albany’s downtown and the city’s neighborhoods. Working together to rezone Albany will allow residents to protect the character of their neighborhoods, yet also responsibly encourage an even better place to live, work, and play.”
This comprehensive code revision is made possible through financial support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). ReZone Albany will cost up to $750,000 and will include green building guidelines, smart growth principles, and water conservation standards.
"Albany's zoning code efforts will encourage smarter and more efficient building designs and development, thereby helping to contribute to efforts under Governor Cuomo to develop a resilient, reliable and affordable energy infrastructure," said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO of NYSERDA. "The Cleaner, Greener Communities program encourages municipalities across the state to become more sustainable and energy-efficient.”
“The city’s lack of an integrated approach to zoning, land development, and building regulations has made something as simple as putting up a fence, opening a business, or painting a house extremely difficult, uncertain, and frustrating,” added Christopher Spencer, Albany’s Director of Planning. “The goal is to create a more straightforward, fair, and predictable process for building improvements or development—ultimately expanding the tax base, while adding to the quality of life.”
The initiative is expected to take two years to complete. Particular areas such as the downtown and the warehouse district will be prioritized to ensure current development proposals in those areas are done in a way consistent with the Albany 2030, the city’s first comprehensive plan, passed by Albany’s Common Council in 2012.
Although revisions were made to Albany’s zoning code in 1993, a major rewrite has not been undertaken of Albany’s zoning code since 1968. The current code has discouraged development in the city and resulted in buildings unsuited to the character of particular Albany neighborhoods.
The intricacies of Albany’s existing zoning code and the permitting process made it difficult for business owner Anton Pasquill to launch the Hudson River Coffee House, which opened on Quail Street in 2010. “People who want to set up a neighborhood business almost always have to hire an attorney or engineering firm to get through the Board of Zoning Appeals,” Pasquill said. “If we want small businesses to set up shop in Albany, we have to change the code.”
“This is going to create a much more livable city,” said Al De Salvo, chair of Albany’s Planning Board. “The new code will be more friendly to responsible development that enhances our neighborhoods.”
“Albany has had a zoning code that stifles innovation, investment and smart growth,” said Richard Berkley, chair of Albany’s Board of Zoning Appeals. “Our historic city, New York State’s capital, deserves better, and with The Vibrant City Initiative it will get a flexible 21st Century zoning code that will promote entrepreneurial business growth, and protect and improve our historic neighborhoods and architecture.”