Zoning Changes in the Works for Parts of Downtown

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zoning mapJersey City’s senior planner has put together a proposal that would change zoning on the western edge of downtown, although the plan’s implementation may not come as quickly as thought.

The proposed zoning change, originally released in late February, calls for a new “R-5” district that would replace the current “R-1” zoning in parts of the city’s Hamilton Park and The Village neighborhoods. R-1 is zoning that denotes one and two family housing with a three story maximum height, whereas R-5 would call for low rise residential and mixed-use zoning.

The areas that would be effected by the new rules are mostly west of Coles Street, including some properties near Division Street and the New Jersey Turnpike extension.

Under the proposed R-5 zoning, the maximum building height would be set at four stories and 45 feet. The plan also calls for a maximum density of 80 units per acre, a maximum of 70% building coverage on properties and 80% maximum lot coverage. Per the ordinance, all lots that fall into the designated area would be considered conforming if the Planning Board were to adopt the changes.

In addition to height and density tweaks, the plan also looks to facilitate the addition of more retail, professional offices and cafes on the ground floors of buildings along Brunswick, Monmouth and Coles Streets. It would furthermore call for new developments to be designed “to present a harmonious appearance in terms of architectural style and materials” with the existing neighborhood, with builders being encouraged to incorporate historic elements found in the area.

Tanya Marione, the city’s senior planner, says that changing zoning in the area is much-needed because not many developers want to build 3 story houses in the neighborhood, which is all that R-1 allows under current rules.

Because of this reality, she says the Zoning Board is constantly being asked for variances for new developments on lots in the neighborhood. She claims that the proposed R-5 zoning is actually more in line with the existing density in the neighborhood, but would provide more square footage for buildings if implemented.

As with any zoning change, support from the community can be key to successful passage. The Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association has indicated they support the plan, while The Village Neighborhood Association did not return a request for comment on the proposed changes. Both organizations had previously met with city officials in public meetings to discuss the project in March.

Despite the new ordinance being presented and briefly discussed at the Planning Board’s March 22nd meeting, the proposal was withdrawn from the board’s April 5th meeting and officials have not responded to inquiries as to the plan’s future. The earliest it could be brought forward again is at the Planning Board’s next meeting on April 19th.

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