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Malta tackles growing pains

Officials fine tuning new downtown zoning code, gazebo will stay put

Town of Malta Councilwomen Tara Thomas, (background) and Maggi Ruisi listen as other members share their thoughts on some of the details of the drafted form-based code zoning. Town officials have been refining the zoning plan for several months.

Town of Malta Councilwomen Tara Thomas, (background) and Maggi Ruisi listen as other members share their thoughts on some of the details of the drafted form-based code zoning. Town officials have been refining the zoning plan for several months. Photo by Julie Cushine-Rigg.

— “I think the gazebo is a community focal point, said Councilman John Hatzell, “but my impression…is that it really doesn’t get used now. If I can be convinced that it will actually get used as a place for the community to come together, I’d be willing to carve it (the area) out.”

“It has been there for some time now and it is becoming a landmark,” offered Councilwoman Tara Thomas.

In the end, the Town Board decided the structure would stay where it is. According to town Building and Planning Director Anthony Tozzi, the town has the option to purchase the gazebo for $1 from Nigro Properties, and on Tuesday, Aug. 21, he filed paperwork to get that purchase underway.

Concerns that form-based zoning would limit attention given to an individual site’s needs and characteristics were also brought up at the meeting. Previously, zoning under planned development districts, or PDDs, was addressed more or less on a site-by-site basis.

“Even when PDDs are extinguished with the new zoning, there are still site specific elements, and some provisions in PDDs that would be maintained,” said Tozzi.

“Grandfathered rights” or rights obtained by developers under PDDs, were also debated. Questions about what rights would be applicable should a building constructed under PDD be destroyed were raised. Ensweiler used the Stewart’s Shop on Route 9 as an example of what could happen.

“Right now the existing Stewart’s is very problematic in terms of the form-based code. Parking is out front, there are too many driveways,” said Ensweiler. “(What happens if) lightning strikes Stewart’s in the middle of the night and half the site or two-thirds of the building burns and are gone … but some significant portion of the building is left?”

As the form-based code is drafted now, if more than 50 percent of the Stewart’s structure were destroyed, rights would fall under the new rules. Ensweiler pointed out that the town’s current code is “silent on this issue.”

The board resolved to table that issue and address it along with others at a Sept. 6 meeting. Matters to be discussed at that meeting include environmental review issues and the timetable of when the zoning plan will be finalized.

Einsweiler said it would take The Code Studio about 45 days to incorporate all that was discussed at Monday’s meeting. For more information on the project, visit malta.code-studio.com.

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