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Batavia Comprehensive Plan

New management, a pandemic, and five years later, zoning to finally get an update

By Joanne Beck

Now that City Council has agreed to commit $75,000 for a zoning code update — through a vote taken during this week's business meeting — the city will be able to get up to speed with that part of its comprehensive plan.

The zoning code update was to happen about five years ago, but a change in management and the bane of everyone’s existence — COVID — came along to put a halt to those plans, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said during an overview of the need for funding. 

Rachael Tabelski
File Photo of City Manager Rachael Tabelski addressing City Council during a meeting. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

“Many of you remember when the city undertook the planning effort in about 2016-17 that culminated in the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan update. Among several recommendations in the plan, one of the significant recommendations was that we update our zoning code … we need to have flexible zoning if we are going to be able to have more housing in different areas than we've had in the past, specifically, if it's been an industrial or commercial area that might lend itself to housing,” she said. “So, as the manager at the time left, and we went through reorganization here at the city, I think it's time that we get back to this process and update, and this is just the zoning code update.”

She had provided that explanation during a previous council meeting, requesting that the $75,000 come from an unassigned fund balance and be put into a fund specifically for the purpose of updating the zoning code. 

“So we could move forward with the process. It would probably be a nine to 12 or 13-month process where we would have a formal committee that gets together. Typically, we'd like members of the existing Planning Committee and the Zoning Board of Appeals and citizens to be part of that committee,” she said. “We will do public outreach through the process. So it is a planning process. But in the end, you'd have an approval and a public hearing to change the zoning codes. So again, it's a long process, but long overdue, and we have had it as one of our goals from the Comprehensive Plan and the city's strategic plan for several years.”

A council member asked how she came up with the figure of $75,000, and she has been around other comprehensive studies that have cost at least that or double, she said, for the total plan and rezoning, “so I was thinking we plan to put it out for RFP, with our prequalified engineers, or open it up.”

“I haven’t made that decision yet, but I was hoping this would be enough to bring in the consultant to guide us through the process,” she said. “Because we definitely do need an expert sitting with us through the process, but with that, it would be staff members and, like I said, committee members and citizens that participate.”

Council voted on Monday to transfer the $75,000 from the general fund unassigned fund balance into a committed fund balance for the project of zoning code update and future land use planning.

This project will help to achieve the goals of the 2017 comprehensive plan update, in which the city outlined a future-use land map where new zoning regulations will dictate the form and use of properties within the city. 

City's Comprehensive Plan, with new 'Gateway District' zoning, moves forward

By Mike Pettinella

The adoption of a revised Comprehensive Plan for the City of Batavia, adding the term “Gateway District” to define zoning on East Main Street near the city line, is moving closer to reality as a result of action by City Council on Monday night.

“We’re talking about making it a little more Commercial (zone)-based, or having different options than just Industrial,” said City Manager Jason Molino after Council agreed to send the 2017 Comprehensive Plan draft to its Oct. 10 Business Meeting.

Molino said the plan update, led by a steering committee, has been in the works for a year and a half. Several internal and public meetings have taken place and the update has been reviewed and approved by the Genesee County Planning Board.

Responding to questions from Council members last month about the proper zoning for East Main Street, the committee changed the area from the proposed “Neighborhood Commercial” rezone to “Gateway District.”

Molino explained that Batavia is unique in that it has four major highways – Routes 5, 63, 98 and 33 – leading into the city. By creating a “Gateway District,” it promotes “good optics and good development plans,” he said.

“It’s a more guided zoning code … one with consistency,” he said. “There has been a lot of focus on gateways over the past decade.”

Following discussion about the plan’s timetable, homes in the floodplain, redevelopment of the C.L. Carr’s building on Main Street, keeping electric car charging stations out of the plan, form-based codes and cleaning up the document’s grammatical errors, Council moved the issue forward. Jankowski noted that he was pleased by the fact that Council would be able to vote on individual proposals in the plan, rather than the entire document.

The steering committee recommended incorporating form-based codes into the Future Land Use plan. Form-based codes focus on matching development with the environment and this approach aligns with the City’s vision statement, according to a committee report.

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