Metro

Re-zoning plans undergo revisions

The Department of Planning and Development now gathering community feedback on March draft

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Seeking public input on citywide zoning changes, the Providence Department of Planning and Development hosted an open house Tuesday to supplement the series of five neighborhood meetings scheduled throughout April and May.

The re-zoning process “is a pretty unique opportunity for us — these things don’t happen very often,” said Martina Haggerty, principal planner for the Department of Planning and Development, who manages the project. Though there have been amendments and changes over time, the zoning ordinances currently in effect date back to the 1950s, she added.

The open houses and neighborhood meetings allow the Department of Planning and Development to gather community feedback for incorporation into subsequent drafts of the re-zoning plan, which was released to the public in March.

Tuesday’s open house invited discussion on the altered zoning map and provided an opportunity for those interested to review the proposal. Department staff were also available to explain the proposed changes to members of the public, Haggerty said.

The neighborhood meetings include a presentation, followed by a question and answer session, Haggerty said. Attendance “really varies based on the meeting and based on the neighborhood,” she added.

“Simplifying  some of the zoning districts,” is one of the overarching goals of the proposed project, but changes will “vary based on the neighborhood,” Haggerty said.

“Once an ordinance is adopted and the regulations are in place, it is really a gradual change that you see over time,” said Arista Strungys, principal consultant at Camiros, the planning firm that helped develop the new zoning plan.

She added that zoning laws only provide guidelines for development and do not necessarily catalyze or initiate the development itself.

“Zoning cannot force development to happen — it can set the stage for it,” Haggerty said, adding that “these things take time.”

“We started doing interviews with stakeholders … back in May of 2013,” Strungys said. “We really made an effort to take a look at the residential zoning” to help “match the character that was already in place.”

“You cannot possibly get everything right in one draft,” she said. “The next draft that comes out will reflect what was heard during these meetings.”

Certain parts of Providence will undergo re-zoning to be more “pedestrian-oriented,” Haggerty said. Specifically, the new zoning plan would designate some streets on the East Side as C2 instead of C4 zones, facilitating the eventual development of buildings “set right to the street” and encouraging a more pedestrian-friendly environment, she added.

With regards to College Hill, Haggerty said the Department will implement the Thayer Street Planning Study’s zoning recommendations, which were finalized in January. The plan “formally recommended commercial zoning,” allowing for construction of three to four-story buildings in the area, The Herald previously reported.

As the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission seeks to attract potential land buyers, the LINK land — formerly the I-195 highway — will remain under the zoning ordinances of downtown Providence. “We are not planning to revisit” those specific designations, which were revised a few years before the Commission formed in late 2011, Haggerty said.

With two more neighborhood meetings scheduled for May, the goal is to present a revised version of the map and ordinances in mid-June. The release of the updated plan will be followed by a one-month period of public input to be taken into consideration before the new zoning plan is reviewed by the City Plan Commission and the City Council for approval, Haggerty said. The finalized product will hopefully be approved by mid-fall, she added.