Planners consider tighter rules on residential zoning in the village

The Planning and Zoning Commission want to shore up first-floor business regulations in the village after an application to turn the former Tigers’ Den storefront on Catoonah Street into five apartments drew concern that residential housing could encroach on first-floor retail space.

The proposed amendment to the town zoning regulations would ban residential housing from the first floor and basement of commercial buildings located in the Central Business District which runs from the intersection of Grove Street and Sunset Lane to the intersection of Governor and Main Street.

“Basically, what this says is you can’t put any residential uses on the main level or basement in the CBD zone,” said Vice Chairman Joe Fossi. “This protects the whole first floor, which is, I think, what we’re trying to do.”  

“By limiting the first floor and basement to commercial uses the business ‘storefront’ village integrity will be maintained and allow a building owner the option to receive residential rent income from the buildings’ upper floors,” the amendment proposal reads.

Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli recommended the commission include basements in the language because some buildings in the Central Business District have a ground-floor entrance at both the first floor and the basement. He pointed to 426 Main Street as an example — the address is technically in the building’s basement, but has a ground floor entrance.
“You would want that to be commercial also, I would think,” said Baldelli of the old 50 Coins restaurant that’s technically in the basement portion of 426 Main Street.

The front entrance of the same building houses Baja Cocina on the first floor.

Catoonah application

The change comes after the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a plan to convert the former Tigers’ Den building at 23 ½ Catoonah into five apartments and one ground-floor office. “This is in response to our concern that people having a 100-square-foot office on the main floor of the building wasn’t exactly what we had in mind,” said Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti.

Commissioner Mark Zeck cited the lack of any other commercial space in the proposal when he voted against the plan.

Several commissioners raised concern at the time that the plan did not provide enough commercial space, or as Baldelli put it, creates “a building that is essentially an apartment building from floor to ceiling within the Central Business District.”

Mucchetti said the proposed change will bring the regulation more in line with what the commission originally intended.

A public hearing on the proposed change is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 22.