Union City held two public hearings last month on its proposed “master plan,” which is a report that gives general guidelines for future development in a town.
The hearings were of special interest to a group of residents who recently have been concerned that new buildings are rising too high in town.
Once the master plan is finalized, it can be used as a basis for revising parts of the town’s Zoning Ordinance, which sets specific laws for size and design of buildings in various neighborhoods.
The preparation of the 2008 Master Plan, which replaces the 1960 Master Plan, cost $150,000, provided by a state grant. The plan took more than two years to create, and a subcommittee including 35 Union City residents helped in the preparation.
“It is merely a vision of the way Union City is going, and where we may be down the road,” said Union City Mayor Brian Stack at the second public meeting. “At least, we show the state and we show the county that we are really on track with what we are trying to do in Union City.”
“This is not an update to the zoning in Union City,” said Stack. “The zoning is not being touched.”
Leaping tall buildings At the meeting, the mayor addressed the concerns of residents who believe there are too many high-rise buildings being built in Union City.
Jeff Perlman, a representative from Heyer, Gruel & Associates, the community planning consulting firm that was hired to prepare the new master plan, said, “The intent and recommendations of our plan are not to put high-rise or mid-rise residential [buildings] all over the city. The intent of this master plan is to preserve existing residential neighborhoods and to identify areas where mid-rise and taller structures might be appropriate, to give direction to that development.”
The new master plan does mention tall buildings that could be built in certain areas of town, where the Zoning Ordinance presently would not allow them.
“The zoning ordinances would have to be revised,” said Perlman during his presentation of the plan to the public on Tuesday. “Commercial development and larger scale residential development would be directed in places where the infrastructure is available and where appropriate.”
He also said that the new plan recommends allowing taller residential buildings near Route 495.
Stack also said: “Should the zoning be upgraded down the line, should we look to redo the zoning, that will be a separate project once the master plan is adopted, which all of you will be asked again to please participate.”
Stack mentioned the Thread, an existing high-rise building near Route 495 that was recently renovated and transformed into luxury condos. According to Stack, the project had little negative impact on the community, and now the building and its residents provide the city with a million more tax dollars than the old building did.
Stack said that it’s not fair for activists to make it seem like there are going to be too many tall buildings.
“You are always going to have a handful of people who have their own political agenda, so to speak, and they are going to try to make you feel like we are trying to build high-rises or whatever it may be,” said Stack. “[The plan] is not about that. It is about having a vision for the city, and we felt that it was important that we at least come forward with a plan for the future of Union City.”
Parking concerns At Tuesday’s meeting, residents also voiced concerns about parking in Union City. Stack said that the new plan would require developers to provide more parking as part of new buildings.
He also said the city may consider adding levels to existing public parking lots and garages.
Open space and architecture The plan also encourages the city to create more public space, such as parks. It promotes preserving the view across the Hudson, and maintaining historical architecture.
The plan recommends improving the facades of the buildings in the commercial center of town, a project that would require the cooperation of local businesses.
“We are not recommending uniform facade standards for the entire city,” said Perlman, after a resident voiced concern about Union City streets losing their unique look.