This chapter is known and may be cited as "The Zoning Law of the Town of Amenia."
This chapter enables Amenia to protect the diverse character of the Town while also giving landowners a range of options and choices for the use, development, and conservation of their land. It is designed to strike a balance between achieving the community's goals as expressed in the Town's Comprehensive Plan and protecting the property interests of landowners, providing a development approval process that is predictable, efficient and fair.
Overview. This section provides a brief overview of what is in the Zoning Law.
This chapter divides the Town into land use and overlay districts and establishes rules for the use of land in each district. The text is accompanied by a Zoning Map which shows where the various districts are located.
Editor's Note: A copy of the Zoning Map is included at the end of this chapter.
The Use Table in Article III (§ 121-10) tells what uses are allowed in each district. The definitions in § 121-74 explain what the different use categories in the table mean. Several of the uses are also regulated by "supplementary regulations" in Article VII, which are referenced in the Use Table.
Article IV (§§ 121-13 through 121-18.1) covers "overlay" districts, which are special districts designed primarily to protect special resources from inappropriate development and to maintain the Town's character and natural and historic resources. Some of these overlays also allow uses that are not allowed in the underlying district, including resort development and gravel mining. The provisions of these districts apply in addition to those of the "underlying" land use district.
Article V contains options for flexibility in development patterns, particularly the use of "conservation subdivisions," which preserve open space by concentrating development on a portion of a parcel.
Article VI contains rules for allowing the continuation of buildings and uses that were legal under previous regulations but do not conform to this chapter. This is sometimes referred to as "grandfathering."
Supplementary regulations in Article VII contain additional requirements for specific types of uses and structures (such as home occupations, signs, and parking), as well as performance standards for all development.
Articles VIII and IX explain the procedures for obtaining various types of permits from the Town, including land use permits from the Code Enforcement Official, special permits and site plan approval from the Planning Board, and variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Article X contains the procedures for amending this chapter to change the map or the text.
How to use this chapter. Landowners and others who use this chapter are encouraged to meet with the Code Enforcement Official to discuss how this chapter applies to their property. For any large-scale development (a large business or a development of several homes), it is also a good idea to consult the Town's Comprehensive Plan to understand how to make a proposed development fit within the Town's vision of its future. The usual sequence of steps in using this chapter is as follows:
Check the Overlay District Map(s) to see which of the overlay districts apply to your land. Review the provisions of applicable overlay districts in Article IV, to see how they may affect what you can do with your land.
Editor's Note: Copies of the Overlay District Maps are included at the end of this chapter.
Consult the Use Table and text in § 121-10, along with any relevant definitions, to determine whether your proposed use is allowed in that district and what permits may be needed to approve it. Also, check the specific sections that deal with the district your land is located in as well as any supplementary regulations in Article VII that may apply to your proposed use. (These are referenced in the Use Table.)
If your proposed use or structure is not permitted, you may want to petition for either a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals (as provided in § 121-59) or a zoning amendment from the Town Board (as provided in § 121-69). These options should be discussed with the Code Enforcement Official before they are pursued. Any zoning amendment must be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
This chapter regulates the location, design, construction, alteration, occupancy, and use of structures and the use of land in the Town of Amenia, dividing the Town into land use districts. This chapter is enacted pursuant to the authority and power granted by the Municipal Home Rule Law of the State of New York, Article 2, § 10 et seq., and Chapter 62, Article 16, of the Consolidated Laws, in conformance with the updated Town of Amenia Comprehensive Plan, adopted by the Town Board on July 19, 2007 (as it may be modified from time to time), to advance the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, and in particular to implement the Town's vision of its future, expressed in the Comprehensive Plan as follows: "We want Amenia to grow into a diverse, vital and business-friendly community of agriculture, small businesses and homes all located in an appealing setting with great natural beauty; a unique unity of six different, clean, well-preserved Town hamlets (Amenia, Wassaic, Amenia Union, South Amenia, Smithfield, and Leedsville); and amenities that attract residents, travelers, shoppers, diners and vacationers." This chapter is adopted to protect and promote public health, safety, comfort, convenience, economy, natural, agricultural, and cultural resources, aesthetics, and the general welfare, and for the following additional specific purposes:
To conserve the natural resources and rural character of the Town by encouraging development in appropriate locations and by limiting building in areas where it would adversely affect the Town's predominantly rural pattern and scale of settlement;
To avoid or minimize negative environmental impacts of development, especially in visually and environmentally sensitive areas such as Delavergne Hill and its viewshed, along the Wassaic Creek, Amenia Creek, Webutuck Creek and Ten Mile River and their tributaries, in aquifer and aquifer recharge areas, and on steep slopes, erodible soils, wetlands and their buffers, floodplains, prime and statewide important agricultural soils, and other designated open space resources identified in the Comprehensive Plan;
To encourage a range of business activities in appropriate locations which are compatible with the Town's rural character and scale, concentrating retail businesses in and near hamlets, encouraging farming operations, and allowing large-scale business and industry in well-buffered locations with good transportation access;
In recognition of the economic value of Amenia's natural beauty and environmental amenities, to protect the integrity of scenic views, ridgelines, agricultural land, existing and potential recreation areas, waterways, groundwater and surface water supplies, ecological systems, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and natural vegetation, and to maintain environmentally significant open space in its predominantly undeveloped state, in order to maintain property values and preserve the open and rural character of the Town;
To preserve and protect lands and buildings that are historically significant and to enhance the aesthetic and architectural quality of the entire community;
To encourage the continuation of agriculture and the preservation of open space, and to avoid regulating agricultural uses in a manner that unreasonably restricts or regulates farm structures or farming practices, while encouraging other economic activities that require large areas of contiguous open space, such as sustainable forestry, tree farming, and recreation, as well as the support services and industries that add value to all of these uses, such as wood products, food processing, resort, and tourist facilities;
To regulate building density in order to concentrate population in appropriate locations where municipal infrastructure is available, and to ensure access to light and air, conserve open space, facilitate the prevention and fighting of fires, minimize the cost of municipal services, and accomplish the other purposes enumerated in § 263 of the Town Law of New York State;
To integrate harmoniously different types of housing and varied land uses in hamlet centers to encourage pedestrian activity and reduce dependency on automobiles;
To provide a range of housing opportunities for all segments of the local population with due consideration for regional housing needs;
To protect residences from nonagricultural nuisances, odors, noise, pollution, and unsightly, obtrusive, and offensive land uses and activities;
To improve transportation facilities in areas designated for intensive settlement, taking advantage of commuter railroad stations, and to maintain a network of smaller country roads in areas designated for low-density development and the protection of open space, agriculture, steep slopes, and rural character;
To reduce traffic congestion on major roads by establishing a pattern of settlement and circulation that reduces the need for driving, provides alternative routes between destinations, and encourages walking, bicycling, and the use of commuter rail and other forms of public transportation;
To encourage the conservation of energy and the appropriate use of solar and other renewable energy resources;
To provide a flexible system of land use regulation that enables the Town's economy and population to grow, while preserving the most important natural, historic, scenic, architectural, and cultural features; and
To base such flexible land use regulations on the unique characteristics of the landscape, the needs of the people of the Town of Amenia, the property rights of landowners to make economically beneficial use of their land, and the impact of proposed land uses on the natural and human environment, and to avoid patterns of development that adversely affect the scenic, historic, rural, and natural character of the Town.
Editor's Note: See Town Law § 261 et seq.
All provisions of this chapter shall be construed to fulfill the purposes stated in § 121-3 above.
The Town of Amenia encourages development that is compatible with the existing character of the Town. To that end, the Town Board hereby adopts as advisory guidelines the illustrated design guidelines published by the Dutchess County Department of Planning in 1994, entitled "Hamlet Design Guidelines," "Building Form Guidelines," and "Rural Development Guidelines" (hereinafter "the Guidelines").
In their interpretation and application, the provisions of this chapter shall be held to be the minimum requirements for the promotion of the public health, safety, convenience, comfort and general welfare. It is not intended by this chapter to interfere with or abrogate or annul any easement, covenant, or other agreement between parties; provided, however, that when this chapter imposes a greater restriction on the use of structures or land or on the heights of structures, or requires larger open spaces, or imposes any higher standards than are imposed or required by any other statute, law, ordinance, rule, regulation or by any easement, covenant, or agreement, the provisions of this chapter shall control. Where the requirements of this chapter differ from the requirements of another statute, law, ordinance, rule, or regulation, the more restrictive shall govern, unless this chapter specifically states otherwise.