HUDSON — City residents will get a chance to comment on a proposed law that would amend the city’s zoning to allow two local businesses to expand.
Restaurant Scali’s Pizza & Pasta, at 974 Columbia St., and upstate convenience store chain Stewart’s Shop, 13 Fairview Ave., are seeking a zoning amendment to renovate their businesses. Because the businesses are nonconforming uses in residential districts, neither can alter its site plan without a change in zoning.
The proposed law would amend the city’s zoning law for conditional uses in zoning districts R-2, for one and two-family residences, and R-2H, for one- and two-family residences and conditional offices.
The amendment would allow for the renovation, replacement or expansion of existing nonconforming uses within the city’s R-2 and R-2H zoning districts under certain conditions.
Lawmakers unanimously voted in favor of passing the Common Council meeting Nov. 20, with the exception of 1st Ward Alderman Rob Bujan and 2nd Ward Alderman Dewan Sarowar, who were absent. Common Council President Thomas DePietro abstained.
Mayor Rick Rector will accept public comments at a hearing scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at Common Council Chambers at City Hall, 520 Warren St.
The proposed law can be viewed on the city website at cityofhudson.org.THE PLANS
Stewart’s is looking to modernize its more than 40-year-old Fairview Avenue store. The 1,976-square-foot brick shop with four fueling stations is slated to be replaced by a 3,319-square-foot convenience market with six fueling stations.
If approved, the plan would include demolishing six residences at two nearby housing units — one at 17-19 Fairview Ave. and 162 Green St. — to make room for the expansion.
The intersection is a busy corridor in the city. Data from the state Department of Transportation shows that, each day, about 8,200 vehicles pass through Green Street and 15,800 vehicles pass through Fairview Avenue.
The parcel and surrounding neighborhood are in a R-2 zone, or zoned for one-and-two family residences.
Stewart’s has agreed to a community host benefit agreement. The terms of the agreement had not been determined as of Tuesday, said 4th Ward Alderman John Rosenthal, who helped draft the law.
If the expansion is approved, Stewart’s has agreed to create a more pedestrian-friendly intersection at Green Street and Fairview Avenue, including new crosswalks.
Steve Scali, owner of Scali’s, and Charles “Chuck” Marshall, Land Development and Permitting Coordinator for Stewart’s, joined forces and sent a letter to the Common Council dated June 19 urging councilmembers to adopting an amendment for the expansion of nonconforming businesses.
“Both successful businesses have existed as nonconforming uses for over two decades, and during those 20 years, both businesses have consistently paid taxes while employing local residents,” according to the letter signed by Marshall and Scali. “An obvious solution is the amendment to the nonconforming section that specifically addresses historic non-conformity.”
As of Monday, Scali’s Pizza & Pasta had not presented a plan to the city for an expansion.
Former city attorney Kenneth Dow and former 3rd Ward Alderman John Friedman each wrote a letter to the Common Council enumerating concerns about the proposed legislation.
Both lawyers said they are not opposed to the expansion of either business, but have concerns about the way the law is written.
“Enacting a law that would expand nonconforming uses — especially to adjoining parcels — is badly misguided, reflects a major misunderstanding of the most fundamental elements of zoning, is in direct conflict with well-understood law repeatedly articulated by the Court of Appeals and risks undermining an essential element of the zoning authority of the city of Hudson,” according to Dow’s letter dated Nov. 19.
Friedman, in his letter, called for the city to consider an overlay district, or creating a special zoning district over an existing base zone, with special provisions in addition to those in the already-existing zone.
“We weighed those concerns,” Rosenthal said. “…We found that an overlay district would create more problems than it would solve.”
The proposed law has been in the works for more than a year and has gone through several iterations, Rosenthal said. The concerns Dow and Friedman outlined were considered while writing the proposed law, Rosenthal said.
The nonconforming use has to have been established and has operated continuously for a period of greater than 20 years in each of the zones, according to the proposed law.
The law specifically targets Scali’s and Stewart’s and would only apply to those two businesses, Rosenthal said, adding the city has previously partnered with businesses to resolve zoning issues, including, most recently, The Wick Hotel, 41 Cross St.
If approved, the law is not a guarantee for the expansion of either business. Proposals would need to undergo site plan approval through the city’s Planning Board, Rosenthal said.
“We specifically wanted to something very narrow by allowing limited expansion under the umbrella of nonconforming use,” Rosenthal said. “There are lots of larger zoning issues looming for the city of Hudson.”
The Common Council voted Nov. 20 to form a Zoning and Planning Task Force to tackle its zoning throughout 2019.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.