Revisiting Past Questions About Local Zoning

Kevin Struck, Community Development Educator

Several town and village clerks have resigned or retired in the past year in the County, and since clerks often also play the role of the local zoning administrator, a lot of the “training” Kevin has done over the past few years in these particular communities has left the building. Consequently, a lot of questions that were thoroughly addressed in the past have to be covered again. This is not a complaint — it’s just a reality in the field of community development education, where there is a steady amount of turnover due to the many volunteers and/or part-time roles played by clerks, plan commissioners, and board members.

To ease the transitions, Kevin keeps detailed notes and key emails to refresh his memory of how various questions and issues were handled in the past. His draft copies of local zoning and land division ordinances also include comments in the margins that shed light on how certain decisions were made or why particular wording was added or deleted. These notes, emails, and comments are often very useful in bringing new local officials up to speed.

Excerpt from a “marked up” zoning ordinance draft, with explanatory comment included.

A sample of recent questions include:

1) What is the best way to configure a proposed 4-lot land division in a transitional area that includes a cell tower on a lot without road frontage, a lot with an existing residence, and two new residential lots that together fall short of meeting the ordinance requirement for 500 feet of lot width?

2) Is a proposed 4-acre dirt track allowable on a 7-acre lot that is zoned for farmland preservation? Does it make a difference if the track is solely for personal use as opposed to public use? Is an erosion control permit required from the County? Is a conditional use permit needed from the town?

3) Is it important for the term “lot” to be defined the same in the zoning ordinance as in the land division ordinance? Does a lot differ from a parcel or a tract? If so, how?

4) How do you calculate residential density limits in the prime farmland preservation zone and assign the correct amount of preservation acreage to the parcel remnant?

“Your help is always very valuable and much appreciated!” — local clerk, 6/1/20 email to Kevin