EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a letter addressed to City Planning Commission chair Marisa Lago.
I am writing in support of the city planning department’s proposed modifications to the Special Natural Area District zoning regulations. I have served since 2015 on the department’s SNAD working group that advised on issues in the Riverdale SNAD, and my comments do not relate to the application to Staten Island.
The amendments have four elements that helped win my support:
• Greater focus on open space preservation (i.e., more stringent lot coverage limits, hardscape coverage limits, habitat protection on larger lots). Preserving the remaining large tracts of open space (through development limits, clustering, permanent habitat protection and outright public acquisition) is the most important issue in SNAD.
• Control of zoning lot subdivisions.
• Pressure on large institutions to engage in long-term planning, and preserve more significant amounts of open space on their property, including through clustering of development.
• Clearer as-of-right options for owners of smaller lots that simply want to follow the rules without a costly and time-consuming public review process.
I retain concerns about tax lot subdivisions, which are distinct from zoning lot subdivisions, and equally problematic. I also have concerns about enforcement by the buildings department, particularly with regard to the expertise of plan examiners and lack of qualified inspectors.
With this letter, I ask the department to address both issues in its responses to comments.
I want to thank the department for taking the SNAD amendment process so seriously, and the thoughtful work product.