The Dobbs Ferry Board of Trustees held a public hearing on June 8 as they consider enacting three proposed zoning changes the planning board recommended. The measure would necessitate revisions to the zoning code, its map, and relevant tables. 

A significant change would be the adoption of “character guidelines” for future development on Palisade Street, where single- and multifamily units of varying ages and architectural styles exist side by side, many of them predating and therefore not conforming to the Village Code. 

Speaking of Palisade Street, Trustee Donna Cassell told the Enterprise on June 11, “Nothing conforms to anything. There are so many variances to help bring houses into conformance. It's a very special area with historic significance; we don't want to have it bulldozed and have someone put up something big in there.”

The other two proposals involve altering boundaries to redistrict Maple Street and a particular house at the northwest corner of Rochambeau Avenue and Broadway (Route 9). 

The Palisade Street guidelines, if approved, would establish limits for the number of stories; a property’s building, lot, and impervious surfaces coverage (e.g., parking lots); and a different way of measuring maximum building height. 

Maximum building coverage would be 40 percent of a lot, and impervious surface coverage 60 percent. The maximum height of 37 feet would be measured from the top of the curb at the center of the property fronting the street to the top of a flat roof. 

Such guidelines would affect the design of a proposed eight-unit apartment building to replace a two-story house on the 8,675-square-foot property at 156 Palisade Street. 

The property is located in the MDR-2 (mixed density residential) district, which includes properties on Palisade Street, Hudson Terrace, Main Street, Cedar Street, and Chestnut Street, though not all are residential properties. MDR-2 zoning allows the development of multifamily housing, up to eight units in each building.

The Village Code explains MDR districts: “The primary purpose of the MDR districts is to maintain the character and scale of established neighborhoods characterized by a mixture of detached one-family houses, two- and three-family homes, and multifamily housing, often found in large, older buildings which have been reorganized into apartments, and to allow for the appropriate development and redevelopment of lots and existing buildings in those areas.” 

The MDR districts address the current and desired character of different areas of the village, and also provide a transition between other districts, such as commercial zones.

The two proposed zoning changes involve one property in the MDR-1 district and one straddling both the MDR-1 and the one-family residential 4 (OF-4) zone. 

According to the Village Code, “The primary purpose of the OF districts is to maintain the character and scale of established neighborhoods characterized by one-family houses on individual lots and to allow for the appropriate development and redevelopment of lots in those areas.”

The boundary between the OF-4 and MDR-1 zones runs down the center of Maple Street, between South Broadway and Park Road, splitting property parcels into two zones: OF-4 north of Maple Street and MDR-1 south of Maple Street. Shifting the district’s boundary north so that all properties facing Maple Street are considered in the MDR-1 district makes parcels on each side of the street conform to the requirements of their district.

The planning board also believes the large, two-and-a-half story multifamily building at the northwest corner of Rochambeau Avenue and Broadway should be rezoned from MDR-1 to the Broadway district (B). Planning board chair Stephen Hunter said in his letter to the trustees, recommending the proposed changes, “…the scale and character of this existing building is more similar to other structures located in the B district than it is to other structures located within the adjacent MDR-1.”

The purpose of the Broadway district, according to the code, is to support the continued use of large homes, many built pre-1900, for multifamily residences and professional offices. Adaptive reuse that retains the historic character of the existing buildings is encouraged.

At the June 8 meeting, Village Attorney Lori Lee Dickson noted that the Palisade Street guidelines were separate from the downtown design or historic districts. The proposed zoning changes and supporting documentation can be found through a link in the June 8 meeting agenda, on the Village website.

The public hearing will continue on June 22, and a decision on the proposed changes cannot be made until Westchester County provides its input on the guidelines.

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