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A new kind of zoning to debut in Malta

Town will hold series of meetings on form-based code zoning

— Malta planners are hoping years of debate over the shape of the town’s burgeoning downtown area will be much simpler in the future through a new system of zoning.

Form-based code zoning (FBCZ) has been on the rise and has been adopted by many communities nationwide over the past decade, but it’s still a fairly new idea for the Capital District. Consultants and town planners will be rolling the idea out in a series of public workshops in the coming week.

Form-based code zoning goes beyond traditional zoning practicesby going into more detail and incorporating actual building design, placementof buildings on sites, and the proximity of buildings to other uses. Inessence, this gives more control of visual impacts.

FBCZ involves more planning work than the typical zoning codes and is used for specific areas, and therefore allows for more detailed planning and works especially well in downtowns. Variances would still work the same wayin the event that there is something unique about a site that wouldn’t quite fit rules of FBCZ.

“For form-based code zoning to work we needed to get more information about it and wanted to provide more refinement to the plan, and we wanted to know what the community wants. …It’s cutting edge and we’re pretty excited about it,” said Anthony Tozzi, Malta’s building and planning director.

Development in downtown Malta is defined by the Downtown Overlay Zone and Commercial Downtown 1 (C-1) zoning district. This includes the area along Route 9 from Cramer Road to Knabner Road.

The parameters of the town’s zoning restrictions for the downtown area, including at exactly what height buildings should be capped, have been a source of contention in the past. With the arrival of the GlobalFoundries plant and ancillary businesses, the downtown area is poised for considerable growth.

To facilitate a transition to FBCZ from traditional zoning, which was recommended by the town’s 2011 Downtown Plan, a project funded by the town and the Capital District Transportation Committee will include a charrette week from March 24 to 28. Public input for the project is being sought.

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