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DeWitt Zoning Update: Comments, criticisms welcome

The town of DeWitt held its first of six public information meetings on zoning updates Tuesday May 9 to discuss changes to the town's zoning and land use codes.

In 2002, the town board adopted a new comprehensive plan that identifies goals, objectives, guidelines, policies and strategies for the growth and development of the community. One of the main goals listed within that plan was to update the zoning ordinance, which hasn't been touched in 40 years.

A Zoning Update Committee comprised of eight local members was formed in 2004; a Buffalo-based planning consultant, Peter J. Smith and Company, was hired for advisory purposes.

Planning Board Chairman Mike Lazar presented the sign ordinance as an example of change among zoning updates. He said approximately 30 to 40 percent of all variances requested were for signs. In commercial districts, application requests for signs exceeded 50 percent.

"That tells us that the sign ordinance isn't properly drafted," Lazar said. "It's not really addressing what the needs are in the town because more than 90 percent of those requests were granted."

By reviewing the rules, modifications were made to loosen the restrictions for certain kinds of signs. Lazar said code revisions are determined by looking at what has and has not been successful in the past.

Using the principles and objectives of the comprehensive plan for guidance, the committee and its consultant prepared and reviewed several drafts of the zoning and land use codes before soliciting public review and comment through informational sessions.

Jocelyn Gordon, an economic planner with Smith and Co., addressed residents with a general breakdown of the plan objectives, which included simplifying codes and improving code definitions. Gordon said current terminology is very confusing for a lay person to understand, and some modernized terms such as "home occupations" wouldn't have suited the lifestyle of 40 years ago.

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