July 13, 2010

The War on Woodshops continues

as well as the war on selling eggs from your house. Rural residential zones seem to be designed for a very quiet vision of suburbia.

Update: clarification of accessory uses and the separation of the most restricted approach into the "neighborhood residential" zone seems to indicate a truce in this war.

The new draft zoning continues to simply prohibit the "Workshop/Garage" use from land zoned rural residential, barring even amateur setups of less than 350 feet:

Workshop/Garage - Non-Commercial - A structure used for the conduct of non-commercial, low-intensity activities such as woodworking, personal vehicle repair, and storage.

(An ungenerous reading of that may even bar using garages for storage, never mind a woodshop.) It's possible to go for an Artist Studio/Craft Workshop by special use permit, but really? Would my (not so very skilled) shop qualify as:

Artist Studio/ Craft Workshop - A place where artists, artisans, craftsman and other skilled tradespeople produce custom-made art or craft products, where they teach such skills, and/or where they sell such products.

Isn't woodworking pretty much the archetypal suburban hobby? Well, at least they didn't ban gardening.

The war on selling agricultural produce from your house also continues. You can raise all the chickens you want, but don't try selling them! That's an Agriculture Related Enterprise ("Wholesale or retail sale of grain, fruit, produce, trees, shrubs, flowers or other products of local agricultural operations."), forbidden in Rural Residential.

You can see the map here to figure out if you're in rural residential. Lots of residents are.

I did write the Town about these issues, but apparently to no effect. Maybe I'll write the paper instead.

(These are just the minor nits, at that. Argh.)

Posted by simon at July 13, 2010 8:18 AM in
Note on photos


Mary Ann Sumner said:

Simon, be careful about sounding the alarm on points in the zoning proposal that don't make sense to you. Please check with someone who knows more about it on the off chance that you've mininterpreted something.

Home Occupations by definition require a home. A workshop, artist's studio or farmstand is fine on any residential property where it is secondary to the residential use. A workshop, artist studio or farmstand on a lot without a residence requires a Special Use Permit in most cases or is not allowed in some cases.

It may be worth checking why requirements differ for the non-residential artist's studio and the non-residential workshop. Still, the primary use in Rural Residential districts is residential.

I'm sorry, but that's certainly not a clear reading of this law.

First, there's the clear prohibition of workshop/garage in the table. Explicit prohibitions of uses typically have precedence over possible vague wiggle room in other parts of a law.

Second, the workshop/garage definition is "non-commercial", while the Home Occupation uses are in fact occupations.

Home Occupation Level 1 is "a business conducted entirely within a dwelling... which use is clearly incidental and secondary to the use of the residence for residential purposes, and does not change the character thereof." I don't see a way to put a separate workshop/garage in there, never mind a non-commercial one.

Home Occupation Level 2 is slightly more generous in that it must be "conducted on a residential property", rather than in the dwelling, but it's still a business.

Also, Home Occupation Level 2 is only available to those of us who live on state roads in any event - for everyone else, it's still a special permit.

I'm afraid I don't see any room for "misinterpretation" here. If the zoning intends to allow these kinds of exceptions through the Home Occupations provision, it needs to make very clear that that is what is intended.

Otherwise residents making decisions will read this and get the all-too-plain message: keep your woodshops and egg-selling out of the Rural Residential districts. Not only that, but lawyers will have ample opportunity to quibble about appropriate use if there's a conflict.

The Planning Board even tinkered with the Workshop/Garage definition in this round - apparently to little useful effect.

This is an alarm that needs sounding. I hope Dryden residents will insist that this be clarified.

KAZ said:

My favorite part so far is the zoning for light industrial/adult, which I take to mean branches of Kuma's, porn bookshops, and the return of the Route 13 X-rated drive-in. But perhaps I'm misunderstanding it? I'm sure we'll need regular infusions of clarifying language as we move ahead; that's to be expected in a document this vast and important.

The adult zoning certainly makes the definitions section of the document an R-rated excursion.

That one, however, isn't the Town's fault. I'd be more inclined to blame Rudy Giuliani, whose push in NYC to ban such businesses led to a lot of judicial clarification of zoning rules - you can't ban them without allowing a place for them.

I wrote a bit about the Dryden rules earlier.

PJ said:

My worry is that there are too many people with not enough to do, so in order to justify their existance they come up with more ways to regulate. What we need are a few people to sit around and detremine which regulations are bunk, and remove them.
There are three reasons why more people are not moving into Dryden; The highest combined taxes, Lack of Internet, and too much regulation.

KAZ said:

Although I question whether Dryden has "too much regulation" in comparison with any other upstate town, PJ has identified an interesting Catch-22--because people don't move here, taxes are high, so people don't move here. Because people don't move here, Internet companies don't feel compelled to extend service, so people don't move here. It's a difficult cycle to break without a careful eye to planning--and with it, regulation.

pj said:

ACtually KAZ is wrong. Taxes are something we can do something about.
Maybe that's the place to start? The excuse that our school taxes are so high because of unfunded mandates is a terrible excuse. Our taxes are high because we don't have enough people asking the tough questions of the right people. HOw many of you have looked at a school budget line item by line item. I bet not many. One of the reasons is that the budget is not presented in a line item form. A large component in a school budget is the BOCES budget. We the public don't even get to see what the BOCES budget even contains, in fact, we (the public) don't even get to vote on the BOCES budget. We have no say in the staffing, the salaries, the programs, the costs, or even how it's run. Who out there even knows how large the Dryden BOCES contract is for? Who know's how large the BOCES budget is? You would be surprised.

Dan Kwasnowski said:

Regarding workshops. I honestly thought I changed that as per the Task Force's recommendations.

It's a long story, but I'm 99% sure that a workshop or garage is okay on an otherwise unused lot. Otherwise how could you build your own home?

I'm looking into it, but I think it is just an oversight. Unfortunately I have no one to blame but myself. Luckily I have 14,000 proofreaders!

Thanks for seeing that. Please let me know if there is anything else.

As for the Home Occupation, the current regs are so bad... For example, if you live in Ellis Hollow, you couldn't even work from home. You can only go so far though, otherwise the principal use of the property changes, and that is really the point.

But I actually thought that was pretty good language. I'll look at it again though.

Dan Kwasnowski said:

One more thing. There seems to be a great disconnect between a principal use and an accessory use. Which is somewhat concerting since that is the current law, nothing new there.

The definitions are pretty clear, but we're going to go over that tomorrow night. Essentially the uses in the table are all principle uses.

We'll have to look at these things more to find a way to make them clearer.

It's good to hear there's hope this will be fixed. It was a surprise to me the first time, and more of a surprise the second time.

If there's a Dryden law that will get read by a lot of people, it's this law, so it's especially critical that these kinds of issues get addressed.