Common Council members decided Tuesday not to move forward with a proposed citywide moratorium on commercial, light industrial districts as proposed by Alderman William Wills, D-4th Ward.
Other aldermen, along with Mayor Ann Thane, said the moratorium would send the message that the city was against business.
“We are in such a desperate need of development. What kind of signal does this send to developers when we put a moratorium on development in CLI’s?” Thane asked.
Wills had originally proposed the six-month moratorium on CLI districts in the 4th Ward, as a proposed storage shed project for a CLI property on James Street was moving through the planning process.
Wills said 4th Ward residents are opposed to the project, proposed by Ihor Rymaruk. The site is surrounded by residential buildings. Wills said the moratorium would allow the city to take a look at its zoning laws and potentially change them in alignment with the city’s Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2003.
After seeking advice from outside counsel Bethany Schumann-McGhee because Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis had a conflict of interest in representing Rymaruk, Wills expanded the boundaries of the proposed moratorium to encompass every CLI district within the city so as not to attack Rymaruk’s project.
The moratorium would have essentially halted any proposed project in a CLI district unless the property owner could show that he was being harmed by the moratorium, according to Schumann-McGhee.
There are two small CLI districts in the 4th Ward. Most of West Main Street is a CLI district, along with the Route 5S corridor, a section of Route 30 and a large section by the Thruway on the city’s South Side.
The area surrounding the Chalmers building is a CLI district. It was not clear whether the moratorium would have impacted the work of Uri Kaufman, the Long Island developer who is seeking to turn the old knitting mill into luxury apartments.
Wills said 5th Ward residents should be in favor of the moratorium to prevent someone from building an undesirable development such as a storage facility next to the Chalmers project.
“They are throwing millions into that building and we don’t want someone to be permitted to put up storage facilities right next to, what we hope will be, a beautiful building,” Wills said.
Alderman Joseph Isabel, R-1st Ward, said he thought Wills might be blowing the issue out of proportion and he wanted to wait to make a decision until he saw how the public felt at the Sept. 4, Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.
He echoed Thane’s comments about the moratorium giving the impression that the city opposed business.
City officials have already scheduled a meeting with members of the planning and zoning boards to discuss the city’s zoning laws and potentially recommend amending them.
The city can change its zoning laws without enacting a moratorium.
Aldermen also said the moratorium would undermine the work done by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.
“It’s like you’ve lost faith in the whole system,” Isabel said.
“Let the Planning Board do their job,” Alderwoman Kim Brumley, C-3rd Ward said. “Let the people speak.”
Rymaruk’s proposed storage facility project will come before the Zoning Board of Appeals Sept. 4. After two months Rymaruk has not received a decision as to whether his project is a permitted use because state code does not define storage facilities.