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Village Zoning Change Proposal

Mayor Volpe has proposed, and the village board is now considering, changes to the village zoning laws to create a "floating zone" that would allow 5 - 6 story residential apartment buildings throughout much of Pelham's downtown, where currently only 3-4 stories is allowed.  Pelham Preservation Society supports new development that would enhance our downtown, including the addition of age-restricted senior housing.  However, we believe that such development can be accomplished within the height limits of the existing zoning laws, just as was achieved with Marbury Corners.

The proposed "floating zone" legislation to be considered by the Village Board at a public hearing on March 22 would:

  • Change the existing height limit on Wolfs Lane and Lincoln Avenue from 40 feet (3 stories) to five stories (60ft) for apartment buildings and six stories (72ft) for apartment buildings where half the units are for "seniors" (at least one person is 55+);  
  • Change the existing height limit on the west side of Fifth Avenue (between the train tracks and Lincoln Avenue) from 48 feet (four stories) to allow five stories (60ft) for apartment buildings and six stories (72ft) for apartment buildings where half the units are for "seniors";  LATEST NEWS: in a new version of the law, these two sections have been changed to have a height limit of 65ft for 6 story buildings and senior housing is defined as a building where 80% of the units are for 55+
  • Potentially waive some or all parking requirements for new apartment buildings;
  • Eliminate the full involvement of the Architectural Review Board and Planning Board as currently exists under the law through site plan review;
  • Place no legal limit on the overall size or mass of buildings or the total number of apartment units that could be built in the village.

Pelham Preservation has worked hard to find a compromise with the village on zoning changes.  We recognized that some elements of the current zoning law poses challenges for new development that could otherwise help revitalize the downtown and ensure its preservation and we worked diligently, drafting alternatives, attending multiple meetings and work sessions with the village board and recommending other ideas to encourage reasonably-scaled, smart-growth development, including townhouses and office buildings.  Unfortunately, THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION HAS NOT CHANGED WITH RESPECT TO THE DRAMATIC NEW HEIGHTS THAT WOULD BE ALLOWED, which would negatively affect the character and scale of the town and harm property values and the quality of life in nearby residential areas.  The Pelham Preservation Society also feels that it is unwise to give complete authority to this and future Village Boards of Trustees by simple majority vote to decide whether or not to allow such tall buildings through the "floating zone" concept.


Above is a scaled drawing of the Pelham Picture House (left) and the existing storefronts at J Cafe and Caffe Regatta (right) that provides an example of the size and height buildings that would be allowed by simple majority vote of Village Board of Trustees under the proposed "Floating Zone" amendments.  The existing Citgo gas station on this site is currently being offered for sale and a developer has appeared at village board meetings to state publicly his interest in acquiring the property and building apartments.  (The two adjoining gas stations are not currently on the market, but, if purchased, the same size building would be allowed on these sites.)  The height shown does not include elevator bulkheads and other architectural elements that are allowed in addition to the overall height limits.  The dashed line shows the current allowable height limit (40 feet), the line above is the height limit for residential apartment buildings and the very top is the 72 foot height allowed for apartment buildings designated "senior housing."  LATEST NEWS:  as noted above, the maximum height limit for senior housing remains at 6 stories, but with a new height limit of 65'

The drawing above shows the existing streetscape on Wolfs Lane (La Fontanella on the left, Rockwells on the right) with the ill-conceived 1999 proposed assisted living project shown behind (minus one story).  The new allowable height for apartment buildings as proposed by Mayor Volpe could reach the height shown of six stories (plus bulkheads and roof) except that the buildings could replace the existing streetscape and be built right at the sidewalk without any required setback from Wolfs Lane.  The same height buildings would be allowed under the mayor's proposed changes anywhere on Wolfs Lane, Fifth Avenue or Lincoln Avenue.

Oppose the proposed zoning changes by emailing the village board of trustees and mayor at:;;;;;;