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Mixed Use Development in the Waterfront District

TZVistaViewFromClermontby Scott Baird, President
Nyack Chamber of Commerce

With some modifications, TZ Vista’s proposed text amendment to the Zoning Code could reflect sensible development. However, as originally presented, the proposed amendment would perpetuate a residential-only waterfront, cut off from meaningful public enjoyment. This would be a tragic lost opportunity for Nyack.

But, with creativity and imagination, TZ Vista’s request actually presents an exciting opportunity, which we implore the Trustees to seize.

Accordingly, we agree with the Planning Board’s recommendation that, if the Zoning Code is changed to allow structures that are taller and exceed the bulk limitations of the current Zoning Code:

  • There should be “encouragement of water-enhanced activity at the waterfront including restaurants and boat launches, boat tours and other attractions that will draw people to the waterfront;”
  • There should be adequate public parking “to take advantage of the increased public access and activities along the waterfront;”
  • These publicly accessible areas should be accomplished through an easement, and maintained through a monetary fund (contributed to the Village).

We also strongly agree with the Planning Board’s comment that “the Village Board should encourage mixed use, access to the Hudson River, and adoption of local streetscapes to provide a Village look and feel to Gedney Street, one that is in keeping with Village character”.

Although the Chamber agrees with the Planning Board on these points, we ask the Village Board to be even more forceful in support of mixed use development and local streetscapes.

Simply stated, we believe that the Zoning Code should be amended to mandate mixed use development for all significant waterfront developments. “Mixed use” means more than a path, pocket park or boat launch. It means recreational, cultural and commercial activities that bring people to the waterfront to spend time (and engage in commerce), leading to greater celebration and appreciation of this natural resource.

To be more specific, we believe the Zoning Code should require a minimum amount of outdoor space for “Water Dependent Uses” (such as a boat launch or water taxi), and a minimum percentage of indoor and outdoor space for “Water Enhanced Uses” (such as a waterfront restaurant with outdoor dining space, seasonal food trucks or kiosks, and limited retail).

Mandated mixed use is not a new concept. There are many examples throughout the United States, especially in waterfront districts. For example, Salem, Oregon’s Zoning Code requires a minimum of 15% of the square footage of any waterfront project to be allocated to “Non–Household Use”. Salem does not allow large residential-only projects on the Willamette River.

Likewise, Nyack should not allow large residential-only projects on the Hudson.

In addition to the examples set by other municipalities, we believe that residential-only waterfront development is not consistent with our own Comprehensive Master Plan (CMP) or Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP). It is also clearly at odds with Scenic Hudson’s useful publication “Revitalizing Hudson Riverfronts”. Attached as Exhibit 1 are excerpts from these documents that support the Chamber’s position.

In short, we think Nyack can do better. We believe the Village should encourage a new and vibrant waterfront neighborhood – rather than token “public access” that includes no significant amenities other than a nice view.

Together with developers and planners, Nyack’s leaders can think bigger and bolder, and take action that could make Nyack the premier waterfront destination for the entire Lower Hudson Valley.

But TZ Vista’s text amendment envisions, more or less, another Clermont. We ask the Board of Trustees to not go down this path, but to act boldly – to seize this exciting opportunity to work together with the developer and the community to re-invent Nyack’s waterfront for the 21st century.

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