This image taken today March 6, 2011, reminds us of the promise of spring as the snow begins to melt and the rain falls on Route 5 in Amsterdam. The image is a personal reminder of the effect of visual communication, as I created the graphics for this Hill & Markes, Inc. truck just a few short years ago. What we can also see in this image, taken from my bedroom window, is the devastation done to the city under the guise of urban renewal. Neighborhoods were destroyed by a plan that would reroute traffic around the city center, contributing to the decline of our economy.
I wrote many letters and complained on local blogs about the situation. I read the entire 2003 City of Amsterdam Comprehensive Plan that recommended many changes to overcome the obstacles caused by urban renewal. One of the first recommendations of this plan was to rewrite our zoning ordinances. Because of my continued interest in wanting to see the goals of the Comprehensive Plan realized, I was asked by Mayor Thane to participate in a Zoning Update Committee. This committee consisted of city planners, attorneys, planning board members, and citizens from various parts of the city as well as the Mayor and Alderman Wills. Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and Planning (now rebranded Montgomery County Business Development Center) was hired by the Common Council to do the actual writing and research of the new zoning ordinance. The first organizational meeting was in October of 2009 and beginning January 2010, the Zoning Update Committee met once a month for nearly a year, with Montgomery County Planning to hammer out the plan.
A series of public meetings were held at the end of last year for Wards 1,2 and 3. The meetings were very poorly attended but enough information was gathered from the public to suggest changes were needed to the updates. Public meetings for Wards 4 and 5 were cancelled and a series of changes were made to the proposed zoning ordinance.
A final public meeting to introduce the revised zoning ordinance will be held at Amsterdam City Hall, Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 6:30pm. A visual presentation will be given and the entire event will be televised on public access channel 17. Questions and comments will be entertained from those present at the meeting and the plan is to take phone in comments as well. The meeting is open to everyone.
The following links contain downloadable PDF files concerning the proposed changes in the City of Amsterdam Zoning Ordinances.
Some major changes include the elimination of historic districts which were never enforced or officially adopted, a centralized downtown core zoned to encourage development, an employment zone along the Chuctanunda Creek/Forest Ave and an overall design guideline that applies to the entire city.
You can bitch all you want about how city government is not serving you but unless you are willing to stand up and be counted, nothing will change. Wednesday’s public meeting is an opportunity to be heard before the ordinance is adopted by the Common Council. Remember, this is an election year, so your opinion will count!