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Planner touts benefits of ‘hybrid’ zoning to Batavia town leaders

BATAVIA – A Monroe County planning consultant urged Town of Batavia leaders to incorporate a “hybrid” approach to zoning – with codes that maintain and protect the area’s rural character and natural resources – into the town’s updated comprehensive plan.

“People in Batavia are telling us they generally want to see rural and natural character protected. To help achieve this vision, a hybrid zoning approach is recommended. This could include revisions to existing zoning districts as well as new districts,” said Matthew S. Ingalls of Ingalls Planning & Design, Fairport.

Ingalls spoke on Tuesday at a Green Genesee/Smart Genesee workshop attended by about 14 people at the Batavia Town Hall.

The GG/SG project has been set up to create tools to guide land and energy use in Genesee County. It is being funded primarily by a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant as well as by the towns of Batavia, Oakfield and Alabama and the Village of Oakfield.

Hybrid zoning combines facets of conventional zoning with form-based or design-based zoning, and “strengthens the relationship between development and the public realm,” Ingalls said.

“Conventional zoning emphasizes use over form while design-based zoning emphasizes form over use. The trend is that we’re migrating to someplace in the middle (realizing that) design is the component that has been missing in zoning.”

Ingalls said that hybrid zoning is being used in 99 percent of new codes. It mingles features of conventional zoning that focuses on compartmentalization – residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural – with those of design-based codes that prioritize the relationship of buildings to one another and the scale and types of streets and other public places.

The purpose, Ingalls said, is to develop land uses and activities that support the goals and objectives contained in the town’s comprehensive plan, which is in the process of being updated for the first time since 2008.

Ingalls said design-based codes set easy-to-follow parameters on building specifications, such as setback distances, lot sizes, building heights, allowed uses per floor, street standards, parking, landscaping, lighting, and fences and walls.

They also place a high priority on multibuilding developments and mixed-use structures, he said.

“Liner buildings and mixed-use buildings create pedestrian circulation and more revenue streams,” he said. “Developers are weighing out the percentage that goes to residential, commercial/retail and office space. It’s a balancing act, and we’re seeing that more and more.”

The town has identified a large area located on the west side, between Routes 5 and 63, for future development – a parcel that could lend itself to hybrid zoning, Building Inspector Daniel Lang said.

He said he wasn’t sure if this type of zoning would work well throughout the municipality.

“I have mixed feelings,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s a fit right now; there may be in the future. I can think of only two or three other areas off the top of my head where this could work.”

A similar zoning workshop is scheduled Feb. 22 for the Town of Alabama.