Beacon Zoning Hearing Set for Nov. 20

Proposals would create guidelines for development

By Jeff Simms

The Beacon City Council will hold a public hearing during its Nov. 20 meeting to gauge feedback on sweeping changes to zoning codes for the city’s busiest development areas.

The proposed changes target the Main Street and Fishkill Creek districts and are the result of efforts in recent months to tighten development standards while a six-month residential building moratorium is in effect.

“We know from our comprehensive plan that we want somewhat higher density on Main Street and we wanted development along Fishkill Creek,” said council member Lee Kyriacou, who has spearheaded the initiative. But the council “didn’t know exactly what we would get” with the zoning language on the books, he said.

Since the city has seen a first wave of development, the proposals spell out explicit design standards, increase protection for historic resources and, in some cases, lower density allowances, Kyriacou said.

The first major change along Main would be the consolidation of several zoning districts into one covering all of Main and extending into the commercial portion of East Main. Within this consolidated zone, three-story buildings would be permitted, with a fourth story allowed but set back from the street in some cases. Five-story buildings — now allowed in the center section of Main — would be banned.

The draft language also provides specifications — including the type and texture of materials, spacing and proportion of windows and doors, and the placement of street-front fixtures — to ensure the compatibility of new construction with historic buildings.

Detail from the Beacon zoning map.

Along Fishkill Creek, developers would be required to submit conceptual plans to the City Council for approval before they went to the Planning Board to review the details. Design standards would require that projects “build on the existing Beacon environmental and historical context.”

Another major change proposed for the Fishkill Creek district is the requirement that developments devote 25 percent of their space to non-residential uses such as a business or retail space on a first floor.

Buildings in the creekside zone would be capped at three stories, although elevators or stair towers projecting a story above could be approved “to add architectural interest and to encourage access to rooftop gardens.”

A final but significant amendment would base a parcel’s allowable density on buildable, rather than gross, acreage. If a 10-acre property includes 5 acres of unbuildable steep slopes, for example, its allowable density would be calculated on only the 5 acres deemed suitable for development.

Those density standards, if approved by the council, could impact large parcels near Madam Brett Park, as well as the Tioronda Estate, which includes the former Craig House psychiatric center, Kyriacou said.

If adopted, the changes would also prompt the rezoning of more than 150 parcels, the majority along or near Main Street, with most of them being shifted into the consolidated Central Main Street district.

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