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Town Board may turn Pattern Book recommendations, such as building height limits, into law

The Town Board held three public hearings Tuesday regarding zoning and code recommendations contained in the recently adopted Pattern Book.

Specifically, the Town Board is proposing that those recommendations be incorporated into the town code. 

“There’s always been this controversy in our downtown,” Jefferson Murphree, the town’s building and planning administrator, said during a public hearing on codifying the Pattern Book’s recommendations. 

“While we strive for new development in the downtown, the 60-foot, five-story buildings have brought to our attention how massive they are. One of the things we wanted to look at in the Pattern Book was the size, scale and mass of these buildings,” Mr. Murphree said. 

The Pattern Book recommends 40-foot height limits and 45-degree setbacks beyond the third floor, among other things. 

The proposal also has a “grandfather” provision, whereby any application that was filed on or before Jan. 20, 2021, would not be required to adhere to the exact standards of the code, but would be strongly encouraged to, Mr. Murphree said. 

John Wagner, an attorney representing developer Robert Muchnick, whose company, the Metro Group, has proposed a 170-unit mixed-use development on the site of the former Sears building, is seeking an exemption. 

He said they knew there were proposed code revisions that could affect their property, and that they’ve discussed “grandfathering” the project “to allow us to be exempt from certain restrictions in that code that we would not be able to comply with.”

Architect Martin Sendlewski opposed sections of the proposal that call for “net zero energy” and “green roofs,” which cut down on run-off. He feels it should not be a requirement, but should be incentive based.

He said putting net zero energy in the code “is really scary,” and that those decisions should be up to the developer and the property owner. 

Former councilwoman Catherine Kent said “getting changes for the Pattern Book was a long time coming.” As for the Pattern Book guidelines, she said, “I’m very excited about this.” 

There were 1,200 respondents to a survey put out in conjunction with the Pattern Book, she said. 

She urged the board to keep the green roof and zero net energy provisions. 

“I’m glad to see the Pattern Book come to fruition,” said Connie Lassandro, a building consultant. She said it will give the downtown consistency.

The Town Board closed the hearing but left it open for written comment until Friday, May 13, at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Clerk’s office.