Lloyd creates Gateway District
After several years of intensive research, followed by presentations and a public hearing, the Lloyd Town Board amended the zoning code last week to create the Walkway-Gateway Zoning District.
The changes actually establish two distinct sub-district zones: Gateway Commercial [GC] and Gateway Mixed Use [GM] on both sides of Route 9W. The GC district is concentrated from the Mid-Hudson Bridge approach north to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which at this point crosses under Route 9W, while the GM district is designated from the Rail Trail up to Milton Avenue.
A 27-page summary states that the objective of this new zone is to attract visitors from the Walkway Over the Hudson while changing “the character of an area that has developed as an auto-oriented commercial strip so that it becomes a walkable mixed-use neighborhood where people will want to live, shop and invest.”
The report states the goal of establishing the zone is to “enhance the quality of the built environment, to promote site layout and architectural design compatibility;” and promote a “harmonious” economic development between this area and the hamlet, while providing for the “safety and comfort of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists alike.”
The GM district encourages “compact, walkable, mixed use development,” and is slated to have ample sidewalks, street trees, and building fronts in a streetscape environment that is “hospitable and inviting to pedestrians.”
The GC district “is intended to serve as a scenic gateway to Highland by employing attractive architecture and generous landscaping that “creates an appealing first impression of Highland.” The overall emphasis is to embrace commercial uses that are appropriate for visitors and residents alike.
In developing the zoning changes, a long list of terms for the Gateway area was redefined; apartments in upper floors and facing the back area; artist studios, a cultural center, as well as commercial indoor entertainment. The code also defined lodging; medical, dental or group offices; parking structures; small “pocket” parks; secondary roads and tree lawns. The code encourages more than one use be allowed on any lot or parcel, “subject to approved criteria.”
The Gateway does have a few prohibited uses: no drive-in or drive-through facilities; self-storage units; banks; motor vehicle sales, rentals or repairs; or car washes. Drive- through restaurants will be permitted provided they are not accessed directly from Route 9W or impede pedestrian circulation.
The report also lists very specific dimensional standards for both sub-districts; with no more than three stories allowed in the GM district and a minimum of 24 feet to a maximum of 35 feet in the GC district.
On property that fronts 9W in the GM zone, building facades will be in a ‘shop-front’ style; defined as a structure placed close to the roadway with an entrance directly off the sidewalk for such uses as retail and restaurants. They will be located at the sidewalk level and with frontage “characterized by substantial glazing, prominent entrances, and possible awnings.” Recessed doors and front courtyards are allowed, which may include small parks, gardens and outdoor dining. Stoops and small porches, at a minimum of 6-foot depths, can be incorporated into the designs.
The report offers details on the desired streetscape standards; what is applicable in public right-of-way areas and what is not directly subject to zoning regulations. If a project involves a substantial amount of new construction, the applicant must make improvements in the right-of-way area but is exempt when their project is minor in scope and proportion.
The report notes that streets should be designed “as public spaces that encourage social interaction and that balance the needs of all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicular traffic, while providing access to lots.” Key elements in this design along Route 9W include 8-foot-wide sidewalks with raised curbs on main roads; tree lawns for shade and to function as buffers for pedestrians from traffic; street trees and 4-foot-wide “furnishing” zones where benches, bicycles racks, lighting and trash receptacles may be located. Streets shall connect with other streets, whenever possible, to provide connections through adjacent sites for future development while keeping cul-de-sacs to a minimum. In addition, the report details a long list of design, finish and landscaping requirements for structures needing site plan approval by the Planning Board.
There are provisions to allow Light Industrial uses in the GC district provided the activity is indoors and that all raw materials and any waste is stored in enclosed structures made of impervious material. High-impact uses are not permitted such as the production of veneer, plywood and engineered wood products, paper manufacturing, petroleum, coal, chemicals and fertilizers, steel, aluminum and rubber manufacturing, to name a few.
The code does allow for the production of pottery, ceramics, glass blowing, vitreous china and leather and hide tanning, provided that these activities have no negative impacts upon human health and safety or upon the environment.
These numerous and detailed amendments to the zoning code pave the way for a radical transformation of an area in Highland that has long been accessed by motor vehicles to one that invites new and innovative businesses that have a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly orientation, while creating an inviting alternative to what has passed for development, post WW II.
Jeff Anzevino, director of Land Use Advocacy for Scenic Hudson, said the Town of Lloyd sees the possibilities that the Gateway zoning can provide.
“The Town Board understands the opportunity to re-imagine Route 9W as an extension of the hamlet and as a Main Street environment for Highland,” he said. “It’s going to take awhile for some investors to come in and see the opportunity now that their land is going to be worth more. They are going to understand that they can now build a two or three story building [and] have more things going on there, more flexibility and what they can build with the types of uses that are going to be there.”
Anzevino acted as the project manager for Scenic Hudson on this effort by managing the contract with Green Plan and coordinating all of the stakeholders at the meetings. He wondered at first if there was going to be negative feedback about the overall idea.
“I think that we got the word out to enough people,” he said. “We worked with the Town Board and fortunately there is a lot of community engagement and activism in Highland and the more people that go to tri-board meetings the more there is understanding. I think that’s why the zoning was so successfully embraced by the Town Board.”
Anzevino said that in the coming months he is hoping that the Town Board and local realtors will take an active role in shopping these now available sites to investors and developers.
Anzevino has also been working on a branding campaign for the region, starting with unique signage that will associate Highland and Poughkeepsie with the Walkway Over the Hudson; “so our whole area can be promoted to the rest of the world as the Greater Walkway region.”
“The [new] zoning is going to provide in both Highland and Poughkeepsie a higher quality of development and a better first impression to people when they come here,” he said, adding that the branding on the Highland side will highlight the Highland riverfront park, the Highland hamlet, Franny Reese State Park and Berean Park/Illinois Mountain.
“People will find out what there is to do in these places, a little bit about the history and why they are important, what makes them worth visiting, directional signs and walking loops to help them find their way from Walkway to these places,” he said.
Supervisor Paul Hansut said he has been working with Anzevino for the past year.
“A big thank you to the Dyson Foundation for funding for the studies and for the branding,” he said. “It’s not going to cost the taxpayers any money.”
Hansut said the zoning changes and the branding effort will lead to a very different future.
“I think its going to reface the way the town looks coming from Havilland Road, north on Route 9W and hopefully its going to direct some folks down into the hamlet,” he said. “I don’t think its anything that going to happen overnight getting developers in here, but I think when all is said and done, it’s going to change the whole look of the town.”
Hansut said he is pleased with the work that has been done by the Planning and Zoning boards toward this effort “and [Building Department Director] Dave Barton did a tremendous amount of work on it.” In addition Hansut said the town worked in a partnership with the Walkway Over the Hudson and with Scenic Hudson to bring this blueprint plan to fruition.
“Both sides of the river working together I think is going to be great for the community,” he said. “It was really a great partnership that occurred.”
By MARK REYNOLDS