Mayor and others object to Poughkeepsie zoning changes

Common Council chambers

POUGHKEEPSIE – The City of Poughkeepsie’s controversial changes to the zoning code are being rebuked by Mayor Marc Nelson and two members of the common council.  The new zoning code is currently being developed with the assistance of outside contractors for the long overdue changes.

Both the comprehensive plan and the draft of the zoning code can be found by clicking here.

Nelson, joined by Council Chairperson Natasha Brown and Vice-Chair Nathan Shook issued a statement on Monday indicating that they do not support an amendment to the new plan that would permit the construction of detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  The first draft of the new zoning plan would allow such construction.

Mayor Nelson said, “Clearly ADUs do not present a panacea to our housing shortage, nor would their rents have been any more affordable than any others, and thus they would not have offered any respite from rising rents. As the next draft is released, I hope that the strong dialogue and public engagement continues, and I am confident that the final product will reflect the benefits of that collaboration.”

Chairwoman Brown expressed her support for a plan that allows homeowners “to construct legal apartments within their homes, such as is sometimes described as a ‘mother-daughter’ unit, or perhaps to make it possible for a senior citizen to age in place, would be a meaningful update to our existing zoning code,” while she indicated she does not support the ADU amendment.

Brown considers the ADU amendments to be changes that are not the best path forward for the city.”  She based her opposition on the feedback she has received from city residents.

Vice-chair Nathan Shook indicated that the council will continue to accept feedback from the residents and he will be asking the consultant to remove the references to proposed detached accessory dwelling units in the draft code.

One homeowner said the opposition to the ADU amendment is a start but says the common council is not addressing other concerns expressed during the public hearings.

“They are all silent on that portion of the proposed code which would allow anyone in an R-1 zone to construct an attached addition to their home which could then be rented to anyone,” the resident said.  Poughkeepsie resident Tom O’Neill is wary of the proposed changes as well.  “To allow construction of separate attached rental units in existing single-family homes, for rental to the general public, is absolutely absurd.”  O’Neill, a former City Court Judge also takes issue with a change in fence restrictions.  “The allowance of fencing in the front yards of single-family homes in the Fourth and Eighth wards is likewise folly,” he said, adding “These proposed allowances will only detract from the present ambiance, serenity, and open space which are the hallmarks of these neighborhoods.  The longtime city resident also told Mid-Hudson News that the public needs to scrutinize the proposed amendments and make comments at the public hearings and meetings.

The city’s current R-1 zoning says, in part, “The purpose of the district is to assist in the creation of areas of relatively open character for single-family dwellings on individual lots, as well as for creative cluster development on appropriate sites and to provide for facilities and uses which serve residents of those areas and for uses which are benefited by an open residential environment.”
The current zoning does not permit the addition of apartments that can be rented to tenants while the proposed zoning laws would permit such construction.
The proposed zoning law and definitions can be found here.