Sustainable Saratoga has a variety of concerns as to how the UDO addresses issues in the greenbelt including the document’s odd proposal to grant density bonuses to developers for taking actions that they are already required to take. It is hard to understand how this found its way into the UDO.
The 2015 Comprehensive Plan referred to what most of us consider to be the greenbelt as the “Country Overlay Area.” As the UDO is supposed to be consistent with the Comp Plan, Sustainable reminds the public of the commitment written into the Comp Plan to protect what is left of the greenbelt.
Sustainable offers the following:
It [The Comprehensive Plan] directs the city to “maintain the greenbelt by restricting incompatible uses and the intensity of development” (CP 3.4-2). Its Vision Statement does not envision commercial uses. Among the recommended actions in the Comprehensive Plan are to maintain and promote “an outlying area of rural character, comprised of agriculture, open lands, natural and diverse environmental resources, and low-density residential development.”
Sustainable identifies troubling new “uses” the UDO is listing for the greenbelt. Twenty-five new uses are being proposed. They write:
“The greenbelt should not contain large institutional or recreational uses, social service establishments, tourist accommodations, retail commercial establishments and multifamily dwellings.”
“In addition, the definitions of these uses are too broad and expansive. Specifically, we believe that the following uses are not compatible with the vision for the greenbelt, and strongly recommend that they be reconsidered:”
They recommend that the following uses proposed in the UDO be removed:
Animal Care Facility – Small Animal with No Outdoor Area
• Animal Grooming Establishment
• Children’s Home
• Community Center
• County Club
• Day Care: Social Adult Care
• Dwelling – Historic Carriage Houses
• Educational Facility – Primary or Secondary
• Family-Type Home for Adults
• Greenhouse/Nursery – Retail (current definition would allow a Home Depot store)
• Lodging House
• Micro-Production of Alcohol (current definition has retail store and tasting room)
• Parks and playgrounds (current definition includes large indoor gyms)
• Private/Social Clubs
• Recreational Vehicle (RV) Park
• Rooming Houses (all six types)
• Shelter, Domestic Violence
The UDO draft would expand the authority of the city’s Planning Board by allowing them to issue Special Use Permits for these uses. Sustainable argues this would give “excessive discretionary power” to the Planning Board to allow uses in the greenbelt that appear inconsistent with the rural character of the greenbelt as envisioned in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
The UDO draft includes support for Tier 3 solar systems (solar farms) and wind farms with the issuance of “Special Use Permits” by the Planning Board. The problem is that the UDO draft does not include rigorous site location and development standards. This invites abuse. There is the real threat that large scale installations of solar fields and wind power could have a variety of negative impacts on the RR (greenbelt) district.
Sustainable supports solar farms and wind farms in the greenbelt but calls for detailed design standards and regulations that ensure that these projects “will not have significant negative impacts on important environmental resources…”
Sustainable advocates that rural design standards developed to protect the rural character of the greenbelt should be extended to all development in the greenbelt.
• The “rural character” design standards that have been developed and made mandatory for conservation subdivisions should be extended and made mandatory for all projects in the greenbelt, not just those involving subdivisions. They should be made mandatory for all projects
requiring approval of the Planning Board, the Design Review Board, and those requiring permits
In addition Sustainable points out that the UDO is offering density bonuses to developers who agree to protect important environmental resources. Developers are already required to do this, however. Sustainable argues density bonuses should not be offered for environmental protections that are already required in the district.