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ZONING LAWS TARGETED FOR MODERNIZATION

Some dusty old zoning laws in the Town of Tonawanda are about to get brushed off in a modernization plan officials say should make it easier to get permits for everything from alfresco restaurant dining to in-law apartments.

The proposed updating of Tonawanda's zoning laws also would crack down on auto repair shops in residential areas and the size of signs in residential neighborhoods.

Town Board member Raymond Sinclair said the update is the first since 1982 and was undertaken -- with the help of private consultants -- to make the town's unwieldy body of zoning regulations more "user friendly."

"Most of the things we're doing will bring us up to 1997," he said.

An Oct. 20 public hearing on the plan was set Monday by the board.

Some highlights of the plan are:

Thanks to a new state law, the town would no longer require special use permits and public hearings for residents who want to build in-law apartments. Only regular building permits would be needed, although once the home is sold, it would revert to a single-family residence.

Restaurateurs seeking to add a few outdoor tables during the summer would no longer be required to have a special use permit. Instead, they would be asked to obtain an annual permit that would allow them to put tables outdoors.

Parking regulations for child care centers would be loosened. This is to accommodate the number of cars that come to such centers, but only for a few minutes to pick up and drop off youngsters.

The number of parking spots required for senior citizen apartment complexes would be decreased, Sinclair said, since such residents tend to keep fewer cars than other segments of the population.

Construction of any auto repair shop in areas other than those zoned specifically for those businesses would be prohibited.

The new zoning law would permit only one dwelling per lot. Such a restriction does not now exist, allowing a primary home with a second behind it.

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