Amsterdam’s Zoning Changes

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.

Public Meeting Announcement

Final Draft of Zoning Ordinance Final Draft Zoning Map

Draft of Citywide Design Guidelines

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!

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Categories: Amsterdam, Law, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

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14 thoughts on “Amsterdam’s Zoning Changes

  1. Diane

    Jerry,

    If comments are made for changes will they be considered?? or is this it??

    • They will absolutely be considered, that’s the purpose of the public meeting. Nothing is final until it adopted by the Common Council.

  2. Diane

    Will this be the final public hearing then?? If so, maybe it should be opened up to the whole community, so that those that did not get a chance to come in Dec can do so now. Dec is a crappy month for meetings.

    • It is open to the whole community. Because there were drastic changes made since the last three public meetings, it was necessary to have one large public meeting. That is why it is being televised, so everyone will have a chance to see the presentation with the changes made.

  3. Diane

    You got somebody to operate the cameras??????????? Contact Joe Isabel if not and he can show you how.

    • This dog and pony show is being run by the Montgomery County Business Development Center who were paid by the city for their services.

  4. Rob

    you were saying about the snow?

    • Robert Purtell

      Hey thanks for the maps of the old and the new, Brings back memories of when I was a kid going to St Marys school somewhere about where the back of your house is, between forbes and grove.
      I know that everyone complains about the arterial and the traffic patterns, but looking at the old map shows how disfunctional the old traffic pattern was.
      When the “new bridge” came to be, it worked out well directing traffic down from the thruway towards both rt 30(Market St) and rt 67 (Church St). The improvements put City Hall, the Library, Post office on the major traffic pattern through the city. The traffic pattern is not perfect but really does direct traffic through the city and not the residential areas.
      My memories of Main Street are not as romantic as others, I remember 3 and 4 story buildings with their 2,3 and 4th floors of vacant apartments in delapidated condition and stores on some of the first floors that were functionally obsolete, inadequite parking and unable to compete with newer modern stores in other areas.
      I applaud your work on the Zoning issues and remain positive that the city is working (over the past 40 years) to continually try to move forward with what we have and try to make up for what we have not.

      • Robert,
        Thanks for your response. Yours was the first I heard that actually liked the traffic re-patterning. I have to differ with you about the traffic not going through residential areas though. Route 5 is about 50 feet in back of my house.
        There was a recent study done by DOT and a couple of public meeting held about altering some of the changes to make the downtown area easier to access. Two way traffic was discussed for the section of Route 5 that currently passes from east to west through the city.

    • Rob (Hotaling)
      See the post for March 7, 2011.

      • Robert Purtell

        Unfortunately you are correct about your house, but they took most of the homes behind you out during the rerouting, as well as the school, I guess the part of urban renewel was to also take out part of the declining neighborhood at the time, there really was no alternative because of the location of the mall, I guess I accept the good with the bad on this one, and I agree it was not perfect.

  5. Alayne

    Jerry,
    Wondering why the meeting wasn’t on channel 17?

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