Zoning protection of natural areas tightened

Grandfather clause that had allowed removal of slopes, trees and vegetation on large lots eliminated. The City Council approved an amendment to the 1974 Special Natural Area District text that will further protect significant natural features like steep slopes, trees and vegetation in three areas of the City: Riverdale in the Bronx, Fort Trotten in Queens, and Staten Island’s Greenbelt and Shore Acres. The Planning Commission initiated work on the text amendment in 1997 at the request of civic groups and community leaders in the Bronx and Staten Island.

Under the original text, owners had to obtain Commission approval for alterations to lots in the natural area districts, except that owners of lots of less than 40,000 sq.ft. with a residential building constructed prior to December 1974 could enlarge the building and make site alterations without Commission review. This clause grandfathered 50 percent of the lots within the special natural area district in Staten Island and 60 percent in the Bronx and had, since 1974, allowed the removal of natural features on over 50 percent of the lots within the districts without Commission review.

The approved text amendment eliminated this grandfather provision, restructured the Commission’s review process, and clarified definitions of natural features and preservation measures. The amendments strengthened steep slope, tree and vegetation preservation measures; allowed as-of-right development on small lots without significant natural features; simplified certain actions requiring Commission review; and improved the plant list used for landscaping.

The Council approved the amendments on February 2, 2005.

ULURP Process: The Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration on September 20, 2004, and referred the text amendment to Bronx Community Board 8, Queens Community Board 7, Community Boards 1 and 2 in Staten Island and all three Borough Presidents. Both Queens Community Board 7 and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall chose not to comment. All others approved. After a December 8, 2004 public hearing, the Commission approved on January 5, 2005, with Commissioner Lisa A. Gomez abstaining.

Council: Special Natural Area District (SNAD) Text (February 2, 2005); CPC: Special Natural Area District (SNAD) Text (N 050093 ZRY – text amendment) (January 5, 2005). CITYADMIN

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.