Mohawk Town Board advancing toward adoption of Planned Unit Development law

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The Mohawk Town Board on Thursday discusses a proposed local law to establish regulations for Planned Unit Developments.

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TOWN OF MOHAWK — The Mohawk Town Board is laying the groundwork to adopt Planned Unit Development (PUD) regulations enabling areas of land to be rezoned to encourage flexible development through projects deemed by officials to be consistent with the character of the rural community.

The board has proposed a local law to create regulation for PUDs allowing landowners or developers to request that areas of land be rezoned for mostly larger-scale projects under a unified plan, often mixing uses. Target areas sometimes involve land within one or more zoning districts where some or all of the proposed uses would not normally be allowed.

The draft regulations would not place any specific restrictions on applications seeking to establish freestanding PUD Districts anywhere in Mohawk, which the Town Board would largely consider based on the consistency of the proposed projects with the town comprehensive plan.

While she acknowledged decisions would essentially be left to the interpretation of the board, Town Supervisor Janet DePalma said officials would be guided by the master plan to maintain the character of the agricultural community.

“We want to maintain that integrity,” DePalma said Thursday. “It is going to fall back on that comprehensive plan.”

Input from residents on proposals would also be critical to the board’s evaluation of any PUD applications, according to DePalma, who was interested in hearing feedback on the law itself. But no residents commented on the draft regulations during a scheduled public hearing.

“We listen to our residents. It’s their community,” DePalma said. “And we live here too.”

Code Enforcement Officer Stan Waddle indicated strict rules for proposals were left out of the draft law intentionally to encourage flexible developments capable of providing benefits to the town. But he said PUD applications would not receive automatic approvals.

“We look at each one individually,” Waddle said. “The town can stop that project if it doesn’t meet the needs or the requirement or there are a lot of residents that are up in arms.”

To seek a PUD, Landowners or developers would need to identify the area to be rezoned and supply their specific project plans for the freestanding district that would be established. Residential, commercial, industrial and other uses could potentially be combined.

The Town Board would review applications based on proposed land uses, structures and the density of development. Proposals would be required to involve only the minimum amount of land needed for the project with plans to cluster development as much as possible to protect open spaces and natural resources.

“The law is designed to be consistent with the community character,” Town Attorney Claudia Braymer said.

The Town Board would have the authority to approve, modify or reject applications to establish PUD Districts. If granted, Planning Board approval of site plans would subsequently be required with projects to follow any applicable zoning laws or conditions deemed appropriate. Each stage of approval would be subject to separate public hearings.

Conditions could be set on architectural features, lot sizes, setbacks, height limits, buffers, screening, open space, lighting, signage, landscaping, parking, traffic circulation, protection of natural resources, public or private amenities and more. Permitting requirements and rules set by state regulatory agencies would still apply.

The town would also have the authority to withdraw approval of any PUD District for failure by the applicant to meet any set conditions or proceed with the development.

The Town Board determined the proposed local law establishing the regulations would not have any significant adverse impact under required State Environmental Quality Review and referred the draft to the Montgomery County Planning for comment. Potential environmental impacts of individual applications would be considered through the approval process.

The local law creating PUD regulations is set for possible adoption next month when the board is expected to hear a presentation from developers pitching a concept for what could eventually become the first application to establish one of the freestanding zoning districts.

Bob Borofsky and Dino Zampini have already approached officials with tentative plans to establish a Herkimer diamond mine with cabins and a museum, along with on-site water bottling within the town on around 140 acres off of Route 5 near Reservoir Road.

The property falls within both the business and agricultural zoning districts, according to Waddle, who said most of the uses being mulled by the developers are already allowed under town zoning laws. Mining is not allowed, requiring the potential rezoning through a PUD.

Drafting of the PUD regulations was partially motivated by the prospective mining development, but Braymer reminded officials the local law would apply to the whole town if they move forward with its adoption.

“They have an application they are seeking to submit imminently,” Braymer said. “We are changing the local law for the entire town, so someone else could come in.”

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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