Minor Enhancements to Help Move Plan Forward at Tuesday’s Council Meeting
(Hamilton) – After taking public suggestions from a previous Council Meeting and making some minor enhancements to the plan, Hamilton Township hopes to move forward its Arts and Cultural District Plan on Tuesday evening.
Following the March 16th Council Meeting, where residents were able to provide suggestions for the proposed district, Hamilton Township’s planning firm, Clarke Caton Hintz, conducted a thorough review of comments from the public and the Township Council and suggested amendments to the Arts and Cultural District ordinance.
The primary enhancements to the Arts and Cultural District ordinance will include the removal of Hamilton Lake from the proposed district, the codification of existing building height limits in specific zones of the district that border residential areas, as well as strengthened definitions for some of the permitted uses within the district.
ü Removal of Hamilton Lake
Residents of the Hamilton Lake neighborhood, whose properties run up to Hamilton Lake, expressed concerns over possible paddleboat or canoe uses that would threaten their privacy. As a result, Hamilton Lake will be removed from the proposed district to protect residents’ quality of life.
ü Codification of Existing Building Height Limits
Some residents who live near, but outside, the proposed district voiced concerns regarding the permitted height of buildings in some of the commercial zones of the district, specifically those that boarder Nottingham Way and Greenwood Avenue. To address these concerns, the Township will codify a 35 foot height limit (the same height limit that currently exists) in these zones.
ü Strengthened Definitions for Permitted Uses
To provide additional clarity of the permitted uses within the Arts and Cultural District Plan, the Township will strengthen some definitions of the permitted uses for the area. The Township will use a more thorough set of standards for the definition of hotels within the district, to better clarify such a use. Restaurants that would be permitted within the Arts and Cultural District already excluded drive-thru restaurants; however the amended ordinance will be expanded to also prohibit fast food restaurants. Finally, the Township will clarify that retail uses within the Arts and Cultural District must be directly related to the area’s principal permitted uses. This amendment will help to avoid retail uses that do not closely adhere to the intent of the Arts and Cultural District.
Other provisions of the Arts and Cultural District Plan are proposed to remain the same, following the further review of public comments and suggestions. The current boundaries of the district will remain the same under the revised proposal.
The proposed Floor Area Ratio and Impervious Surface Coverage Bonuses will also remain the same under the amended plan, which intends to create an incentive to redevelopment and provides for minimum standards of properties’ floor areas be devoted to “Arts and Culture” uses. Because development or redevelopment projects need to meet site design, zoning and environmental standards (just as any project outside the district does), and given the fact that all projects would still require Planning Board review of traffic and storm water management issues, future development or redevelopment projects may never reach the maximum allowance for Floor Area Ratio and Impervious Surface Coverage. Therefore, the existing requirements that are currently in place will help to protect the integrity of the Arts and Cultural District Plan’s incentive, while remaining sensitive to land use standards and environmental concerns.
Additionally, all buffer requirements within the Arts and Cultural District (which vary on a zone by zone basis), will continue to remain the same as it currently exists for all properties. In the commercial zones that boarder residential areas, it is highly unlikely that any sizeable projects will occur because of the size of existing lots in these portions of the district. This will also allow larger projects (which will have a height limit of 45 feet) to only occur in sections of the Arts and Cultural District that exist further away from residential areas. And in these areas, double buffer requirements can be met because of the larger parcels of land. Therefore, overall, the quality of life of residents can be protected, while larger projects that may develop away from residential zones, can still occur and benefit the local economy.
“Our goal is for our entire community to benefit from the Arts and Cultural District. We have listened to and given serious consideration to the comments that residents have provided to us. And with the enhancements we are making to the ordinance, I believe we are working to protect the quality of life of nearby residents, while still protecting the incentives that will benefit our local economy in upcoming years. I hope that this will allow this proposal to move forward and be adopted, so that we can begin to expand economic opportunity in this part of our township, to benefit all of our community’s residents,” says Hamilton Township Mayor John Bencivengo.