On July 21, 2020, the Huntington Town Board adopted significant amendments to the Town’s zoning and site plan regulations for mixed-use buildings in the Town’s C-6 (General Commercial) Districts. The amendments, set forth in a series of resolutions (click here Huntington Zoning Amendments), are aimed at controlling the scale of future mixed-use buildings, reducing their burden on public infrastructure, and protecting the suburban character of the Town’s hamlet centers.¹ Undoubtedly, preserving the positive aspects of suburban living is an admirable goal; however, some opponents of the legislation argue that it will impede revitalization within the Town, and efforts to meet growing housing needs.
The Town’s C-6 Districts are most concentrated in the hamlets of Huntington Village, Greenlawn, and East Northport, but they extend well beyond those areas. According to the Huntington GIS portal, properties zoned C-6 dominate the landscape along New York Avenue and on significant portions of Jericho Turnpike, Depot Road, and West Hills Road. Smaller pockets of C-6 properties exist throughout the Town north of Jericho Turnpike.
Regardless of where C-6 properties are located, they are all subject to new dimensional standards and parking requirements for mixed-use buildings. At the outset, all mixed-use buildings in C-6 Districts are now subject to site plan review, (§ 198-27[A]), and the following design standards:
- The height of mixed-use buildings is capped at 38 feet, except in the Huntington Station Overlay District, where it remains 45 feet. (§ 198-27[G]).
- The storage and community space on the ground floor is limited to 15% of the total floor area. (§ 198-27[A][c], [c]).
- On-site parking spaces used to satisfy the requirement for commercial uses are not counted toward the on-site parking required for residential uses (i.e. no shared parking between commercial and residential uses on the same site).
- The parking ratio for residential uses in mixed-use buildings is 1.5 spaces for every studio and one bedroom apartment, plus 0.5 spaces for each additional bedroom.
- (§ 198-27[A], [A]).
- Mixed-use buildings with new construction that will modify or expand the footprint of an existing building are subject to the added restriction that the combined area of the upper stories is capped at 150% of the area of the first floor of the building. (Note: Does not apply in the Huntington Station Overlay District). (§198-27[A][e]).
Under the pre-existing Zoning Code, mixed-use buildings in the C-6 District were already subject to restrictions prohibiting upper floors from having larger footprints than the ground floor, and the express requirement that they comply with the district’s height, area and bulk requirements. (§ 198-27[A][[a], [b]). The new amendments preserved these requirements and added to them.
Mixed-use projects on properties zoned C-6 and located within one of the Town’s hamlet centers and/or within the Town of Huntington Sewer District are subject to additional planning requirements relating to traffic and sewage disposal.
- Applications for mixed-use buildings in Town hamlet centers must include a traffic impact study. If the project will impact the level of service at an intersection, the project sponsor will be required to provide mitigation measures to maintain or improve the level of service. (Town Code Ch. A202, § 184.108.40.206.7).
- Applications for mixed-use buildings within the Huntington Sewer District must be submitted to the Town’s Department of Planning and Environment and Department of Environmental Waste Management for a joint review to confirm adequate sewer capacity before a site plan application will be entertained. (Town Code Ch. A202, § 220.127.116.11.3).
Finally, mixed-use buildings within the Huntington Village Hamlet Center, specifically, are subject to a third level of new standards and requirements.
- Whenever a mixed-use building cannot comply with the Town’s drainage requirements, whether due to site constraints or for some other reason, the project sponsor is required to pay money equal to the estimated cost of the drainage improvements, as determined by the Town, into a dedicated Town fund for the construction of drainage improvements in the same watershed area. (Town Code Ch. A202, § 18.104.22.168.4.d).
- Projects involving construction of new buildings, front facades, and exterior additions and alterations exceeding 1,000 square feet are subject to architectural review coordinated with the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission. (Town Code Ch. A202, § 22.214.171.124.7.3).
- Municipal parking facilities the Town acquired on or after September 1, 2019 and located within the Huntington Village Hamlet Center cannot be used to satisfy the parking requirements for private properties. (§ 198-44[A]).
The sponsors of the zoning amendments, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Councilman Ed Smyth, lauded the passage of the legislation as a major step in protecting the unique character of the Town’s centers and curtailing undesirable development trends that evolved following prior amendments to the Town’s zoning code.² Some, however, are not on board with the new changes. Council members Joan Cergol and Mark Cuthbertson both voted down the amendments to the C-6 District. One commenter, Roger Weaving of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, remarked that the legislation unnecessarily restricts developers’ ability to build housing–affordable housing, in particular–in the Town’s commercial centers where many lower paid individuals are compelled to seek work.³
Development projects do not happen overnight, and as a result, the impact of new zoning legislation is rarely felt immediately. Accordingly, it may be some time before the true impact of Huntington’s newest zoning amendments is known.
1 https://www.huntingtonny.gov/news/?FeedID=4490 (Town of Huntington News Details 7/23/2020).
2 https://www.huntingtonny.gov/news/?FeedID=4490 (Town of Huntington News Details 7/23/2020).
3 Weaving, Roger, Op-Ed: A Sad Day for Huntington Housing, Huntington NOW, July 31, 2020 (https://huntingtonnow.com/op-ed-a-sad-day-for-huntington-housing/).