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FINALLY! Common Council begins Green Code Adoption Process

Mayor Byron W. Brown and the Common Council on Thursday jointly filed a revised draft Green Code, an update of Buffalo’s 63-year-old zoning code and land use policies, including more than 100 revisions that came out of 20 public meetings and two public hearings since October 2015.

“Not only did we listen, we made substantial changes to the draft document based on the public’s suggestions and concerns, including the more than 230 public sessions dating back to 2010,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said.

The Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) filed with the Common Council includes written responses to public comment and proposed revisions to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Key changes to the draft UDO include:

  • New provisions restrict the size and density of multi-family projects in residential zones.
  • The maximum building height, applying to neighborhood main streets like Elmwood Avenue, Grant Street, and High Street, is reduced from five stories to three stories. Five story buildings would still be allowed along Niagara, Delaware, and Main.
  • The maximum building occupancy has been reduced from 25% of lot area to 10% of lot area in open space zones. This will greatly restrict the amount of land that can be developed on the Outer Harbor, with the vast majority of land being set aside for open space.
  • New provisions create special development standards for Elmwood Village, including a reduction in the maximum size of a commercial establishment from 10,000 square feet to 3,500 square feet on the ground floor and 7,000 square feet overall. To encourage small-scale, incremental development along Elmwood Avenue, a new provision allows only up to two lots to be combined for new construction.
  • McCarley Gardens is re-zoned to reinforce the current residential character of the neighborhood.

Over the next weeks, the Common Council will review the FGEIS for completeness. When the Common Council accepts it as complete, the UDO and other Green Code documents will be reviewed by the City Planning Board and be subject to public hearings to be held by the Common Council. When those hearings close, the Green Code will be finalized by a Common Council vote.

“Following months of public comments and the numerous Common Council public meetings and hearings, we are releasing a revised Green Code that shows we listened to the concerns of the residents that commented and have a better product because of the engagement of the public. But there is still work to be done before Green Code becomes law and there will be public sessions to obtain additional resident input. I look forward to hearing from our residents on these issues as we enter the final stage and working with my colleagues to create a land use plan and zoning laws that best serve our city,” said Common Council Majority Leader David A. Rivera.

“The level of transparency set by the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and the Buffalo Common Council led to the revisions to the Green Code being reflective of what residents have been advocating for,” said Buffalo Common Council President Pro Tempore Christopher P. Scanlon. “As a result, the City of Buffalo’s new zoning code will reflect the desires of the community as a whole.”

“Since the Green Code was introduced last year my office has held public forums, attended community and block club meetings to get as much input as possible from stakeholders,” said Delaware District Councilmember Joel P. Feroleto. “Revisions to the Green Code reflect what residents have been advocating for. This has been a collaborative process with the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and I am pleased with the commitment of all parties involved to produce a zoning code that reflects the desires of community members.”

“Urged by concerned citizens, Mayor Brown, along with several visionary Common Council Members, saw the importance of reforming Buffalo’s broken development system—over 1,800 pages of confusing, contradictory legalese that hadn’t been materially updated since 1953. The Buffalo Green Code is the product of over six years of effort, a refreshingly honest and sometimes contentious collaboration between citizens and City Hall. This reform is long overdue. Buffalo’s old zoning code, a product of the 1950s, was designed to suburbanize the city, making most of the city’s compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods illegal. For decades, it has been too difficult for the city to build the kind of development the people of Buffalo have consistently stated they want, to preserve and enhance the kind of neighborhoods that make Buffalo the great place it is,” said Chuck Banas, Chuck Banas Design. “The Green Code is a great leap forward for Buffalo, only the third city in the nation to undertake such comprehensive reform. The new code is a compelling hallmark of the New Buffalo, honoring Buffalo’s renowned historic legacy while helping to make our city competitive in the 21st century.”

“Perhaps nothing has done more damage to the character of Buffalo, its small businesses, and its building stock than the intolerably dated 1953 zoning code. For generations, it has forced anyone who would build a new home or business, or to expand a business or institution, to knock down and pave over more of the city than anyone would need or want. This has steadily eroded the character and viability of our neighborhoods and business districts for longer than most of us have been alive. The Green Code rectifies that mistake. Now, we can have buildings and businesses again, instead of paving. Housing instead of paving. Public space instead of paving. People instead of paving. Green instead of gray,” said Tim Tielman, Executive Director, Campaign for Greater Buffalo, History & Culture.

The Green Code is now available at the Green Code website, the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall 1302, and all Buffalo Public Library locations.

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

View All Articles by Mike Puma
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