Malta adopts new downtown zoning

Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville voicing his objections over downtown zoning law.

Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville voicing his objections over downtown zoning law. Photo by Marci Revette.

— After five years of revisions and discussions, the Town of Malta has a new form-based code that will set the tone and tenor for downtown development.

The vote was taken at a Monday, Feb. 4, board meeting, and Supervisor Paul Sausville cast the only dissenting vote.

“You’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole,” he said. “It is already difficult to do business in Malta, this will make it even more difficult. … There will be real serious ramifications down the road.”

According to Tony Tozzi, the Town Planner, this is a new form of zoning has never been enacted in New York State.

“This new form-based code has a great deal of detail and will allow developers to know up front what is needed,” he said.

The new code sets strict building design standards, which Sausville argued will discourage developers. Proponents, on the other hand, said the format promises quick approvals to development proposals that meet standards, which may draw developers to the growing town. Under the streamlined zoning process, projects that comply with the new zoning rules are eligible for administrative approvals by the town Building and Planning Department, rather than having to go before the town Planning Board.

“This is a product I am very, very proud of as it shapes the future of downtown Malta,” said town Councilwoman Tara Thomas.

Councilman John Harzell agreed.

“This is putting something in place that is the forefront of planning,” he said. “We are already seeing surrounding communities taking steps for form-based codes.”

Hartzell also said he believes the document deals with real issues.

“We will be zoning for exactly what we want,” he said. “If you can meet our stringent requirements, you can do your project. That is huge for the Town of Malta.”

Under the new zoning, four-story buildings such as hotels could be allowed just east of Northway Exit 12, and mixed residential-commercial projects would become the norm in the downtown area. This is one of the features that Sausville objected to.

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