The Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for 6:45 p.m. March 7 on potentially controversial proposed revisions to the downtown master plan.
The hearing will be on adopting the recommendations of the citizen-led Downtown Planning Team, a committee appointed by the Town Board that called for concentrating commercial development in a smaller area than the 1.8-mile stretch of Route 9 now approved for downtown development.
The majority of the Town Board supports the recommendations, but Town Supervisor Paul Sausville remains opposed. He voted against scheduling the public hearing, and was the only board member to do so.
“I think frankly we’re moving much too rapidly on the downtown plan,” Sausville said.
He favors repealing the current high-density downtown development plan. He said he remains concerned about the safety of pedestrians crossing busy Route 9, and that dense downtown development will lead to the need for a paid fire department in the future.
The planning team was appointed last June after the Town Board was unable to resolve the competing visions for the downtown’s future during months of discussion.
After holding meetings and public input sessions, the committee recommended breaking the current downtown zone into smaller pieces: a half-mile core area on Route 9 north of the main roundabout, where the most-dense growth would be focused; lengthy transition zones to the north and south; and a “village center” zone along Route 67 and Dunning Street where smaller buildings with historically themed architecture would be encouraged.
Maximum building heights would be reduced from the current 54 feet — up to five stories — to a height where three-story buildings would still be allowed. The total potential maximum development would be 38 percent less than current zoning allows, according to The Chazen Companies, the town land use consultants.
Most Town Board members have said they think the committee recommendations are a good compromise.
The goal of the high-density downtown development plan adopted in 2005 — the plan now on the books — was to concentrate commercial and retail growth in one area, in an effort to avoid sprawl development.
Since 2005, the 332-unit Ellsworth Commons apartment and commercial complex has gotten approval and started construction, and other large buildings have been approved but are not yet built.
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