Rochester Subway
Subscribe for Email UpdatesBecome a Facebook FanFollow Us on TwitterRSS Feed Rochester History + New Ideas. Fresh from the Rochester Subway.

Topics


Rochester Subway Gift Shop


¤ Visit the Gift Shop
¤ See Combo Deals & Offers


Modern Rochester Subway Map


Modern Rochester Subway Map

¤ View Details
¤ Buy at Reconnect Rochester


Modern Rochester Subway Map


City of Rochester, New York

¤ View Details

 | 

Add To Cart


Rochester Neighborhoods Map

Rochester Neighborhoods Map

¤ View Details

 | 

Add To Cart


Rochester Subway Map, 1928


1928 Rochester Subway Map

¤ View Details

 | 

Add To Cart


Rochester Subway DVD

The End of the Line - Rochester’s Subway (DVD)

¤ View Details

 | 

Add To Cart


Rochester Landmarks Poster

Rochester Landmarks Poster

¤ View Details

 | 

SOLD OUT


Work in Rochester

Work in Rochester

¤ View Details
¤ Buy from Amazon


Original Streetart by SPACEMAN

Original Streetart by SPACEMAN

¤ View All Spaceman Art


Old Rochester Photos<br>and Historical Views

Old Rochester Photos
and Historical Views

(Framed Reprints Available)

¤ View All Rochester Photos


Rochester Subway Cap

Embroidered Subway Cap

¤ View Details


Rochester Subway T-Shirt

Rochester Subway T-Shirt

¤ View Details


Rochester Subway Token T-Shirt

RTC Token T-Shirt

¤ View Details


Rochester RTC Token

RTC Token (1948)

¤ View Details

 | 

SOLD OUT


Roch. & Brighton Token

Roch. & Brighton Token
(1887-90)

¤ View Details

 | 

Add To Cart


Rochester Railway Co. Token

Rochester Railway Co. Token (1900-09)

¤ View Details

 | 

SOLD OUT


Rochester School Fare Token

School Fare Token (1948)

¤ View Details

 | 

Add To Cart


Rochester NYS Railways Token

NYS Railways Token (1909-38)

¤ View Details

 | 

Add To Cart


Rochester Subway Poster + DVD Combo

Rochester Subway
Poster + DVD Combo

¤ 

Add To Cart

 (Save 10%)


Rochester Subway Vintage Postcard

Vintage Postcard (1941),
Rochester Rail Equipment

¤ View Details

 | 

Order Reprint

¤ See All Vintage Postcards


Rochester Subway Vintage Postcard

Vintage Postcard (1938),
Subway & Broad Street

¤ View Details

 | 

Order Reprint

¤ See All Vintage Postcards


Rochester Subway Vintage Postcard

Vintage Postcard (1942),
Rochester City Hall & Subway

¤ View Details

 | 

Order Reprint

¤ See All Vintage Postcards


Rochester Subway Vintage Postcard

Vintage Postcard (c.1912),
Rochester’s Four Corners

¤ View Details

 | 

Order Reprint

¤ See All Vintage Postcards


Rochester Subway Vintage Postcard

Vintage Postcard (c.1905),
Erie Canal Aqueduct

¤ View Details

 | 

Order Reprint

¤ See All Vintage Postcards


Rochester Subway Vintage Postcard

Vintage Postcard (c.1928),
South Entrance to Subway

¤ View Details

 | 

Order Reprint

¤ See All Vintage Postcards


Rochester Subway + Trolley Transit Passes

Original Subway, Trolley,
and Bus Weekly Transit Passes

¤ View All Transit Passes





Filling In: Zoning Part 1, Introduction

September 10th, 2015

Current Rochester Zoning Map [IMAGE: City of Rochester]
By Matthew Denker

Well readers, this is it. The series of articles you’ve been waiting for your entire life without even knowing it. That’s right, we’re going to talk about zoning, and more specifically, zoning in Rochester. I’ve been known to refer to zoning as the last bastion for the wicked, and over the next few weeks, I look forward to pleading my case.

History

Equitable Building in New York City
The earliest regulations of land use involved the passage of nuisance laws. Simply put, if you didn’t like what your neighbor did with their land, you could sue them. Then it would be in a judge’s hands and well, good luck. The first regulations that still exist in modern zoning were height limitations. In 1885, New York City passed a law limiting tenements height to 1.5x the width of the street they were built on. Height restrictions were ruled legal in 1909 by the Supreme Court and DC passed its most famous of height limits external link the following year.

Then in 1915, the Equitable Building external link in New York City was built, and everything changed. New construction methods allowed the 538 foot tall building to rise directly from the street to its roof. The building cast 7 acres of shadow, and New Yorkers were terrified the city would turn into a dimly lit dungeon. This led directly to the first comprehensive zoning code in 1916. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever attempted to read a zoning code that it was a lawyer, Edward Bassett external link, who was the “father of American zoning.” In case you’re curious, this first zoning code external link yielded the rather famous wedding cake design so prevalent in early NYC skyscrapers.

Closer to home, Rochester was surprisingly current with its adoption of a zoning code barely 3 years later in 1919.

Zoning was finally upheld as a legitimate use of government authority to regulate private property in 1926 by the Supreme Court in the landmark case Village of Euclid (Ohio) v. Ambler Realty Co. external link We have this case to thank for the term Euclidean zoning (use-based zoning). At this point, it was off to the races for zoning in the US, and it’s everywhere (even if Houston doesn’t have something formally referred to as ‘zoning’).

Zoning in Rochester

Current Rochester Zoning Map [IMAGE: City of Rochester]
Rochester’s first zoning code was adopted in 1919, and it separated the city into the following 6 districts:

  • Unclassified Districts;
  • Unrestricted Districts;
  • Industrial or Manufacturing Districts;
  • Commercial or Business Districts;
  • Residential Districts; and
  • Residential Districts, Class E.

These districts are about what you’d expect them to be – the last time that’s the case (with the exception of the rather curious Class E residential district, which is just more restrictive than a normal residential district). It’s been all, let’s say, embellishment, from here on out. This initial zoning code has been ‘thoroughly revised four times in the last 86 years – 1929, 1957, 1975, and 2003. For some super quick highlights of each, read on.

1919 external link
And in the beginning:

Pursuant to the provisions of Section 291 of the Charter of the City of Rochester relating to the powers and duties of the Superintendent of the City Planning Bureau, and for the purpose of carrying into effect said provisions and thereby promoting the health of the public, the safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the city, the growth and prosperity of the city, and securing the proper development and upbuilding of the city, the City of Rochester is hereby divided into districts as hereinafter provided, to be known as Use Districts, and no business, trade or industry shall be located, nor shall any building or structure be located, altered or used in any of the said districts, except in conformity with the rules and regulations hereinafter prescribed for each of the said Use Districts.

Past the introduction in the first zoning code, the confusing (non) standard of allowing and disallowing things has already been adopted. Things are prohibited in commercial or business districts (for example an arsenal!) and allowed in residential districts (for example railroad passenger stations).

1929 external link
There are now 19 districts instead of 6. In the words of the scope, this is ‘for the purpose of promoting public health, safety, morals and general welfare…’ That’s right, it’s the 86th anniversary of Rochester attempting to regulate morals through zoning. Remember that the next time a neighborhood association contends that a building is ‘too tall.’ Also addressed, the C Residence District specifically allows the construction of ‘An aeroplane, airship or balloon landing or aviation field or hanger if approved by the Board of Appeals as hereinafter provided.’ I can only imagine the robber baron attempting to build an airfield in a then-zoned residential district.

1957 external link
Surprisingly, there are now only 13 districts. Morals are still clearly referenced in the scope of the zoning document, though. Of interest is the specific bifurcating of current city lots (40’x100’) and preferred future city lots (50’x100’). Each has materially similar regulations, but clearly the preference was for a more spread-out, suburban style community of 50 foot wide lots, not the existing, compact, urban streets of Corn Hill and Grove Place (that we so cherish now). Unfortunately, some of these anti-urban, pro-sprawl, pro-car biases still exist in the city’s codes and policies.

Also included in this zoning are a variety of massive setbacks including a pretty typical 30 foot buffer from a differing use. For example, a college dorm is ok in R-2, but only if it’s 30 feet from a conforming R-2 building. That means UofR needs to buy and demolish the house next to their new dorm and keep the land vacant. Read into that as you will.

1975 external link
And we’ve excused morals from the party. Hello cultural revolution! But now the long-term plan of zoning comes forward. ‘Protect the established character and the social and economic well-being of both private and public property.’ That’s right, by 1975, zoning in Rochester was designed to preserve the city in amber unless you could pony up the cash to chip your way out. Despite noting it here, this has generally been the aim of zoning, although much of that value was extracted by developers when they learned they could make more money developing where there was already zoning.

The list of definitions in this zoning code has swelled significantly from prior codes and includes what can only be described as the driest definitions of an escort and an escort agency I have ever read. I guess morals haven’t been completely removed from land use (for a bunch of words you’d never expect to read in a zoning code, read the definition of ‘Specified Sexual Activities’ external link in the current zoning – NSFW). There is also a surreal pantheon of bureaucracy enshrined in the zoning code extending beyond a director and board of appeals including a Downtown Design Committee and a Skyway Advisory Committee (only diamonds are forever).

2003 external link
This is the current zoning, and the one we’ll be discussing over the next few articles. But just remember that when this code was written, there weren’t yet smartphones, or tablets, and AirBnB hadn’t been imagined. However, Rochester was again at the leading edge of a trend when it included a modified ‘form based code’ for the Center City District. As the name suggests, form based codes focus regulations on building form, rather than property use. West Palm Beach, Florida, was one of the first to adopt a form based code for its downtown in 1995. We will discuss a couple of the differences between the two in the final part of the series.

Parts 2 Through 5

Chase Tower in Rochester
This series is split into five parts. If you’re still reading, you’re nearly done with Part 1, the introduction. The remaining four parts, all concerning Rochester, are broken up as such:

Part 2 – Residential Zoning
Part 3 – Commercial Zoning
Part 4 – All the other Zones
Part 5 – What Next?

In parts 2 through 4, we’ll go through the basics of what each zone allows and prohibits, how much of a given zone exists in the city, some typical buildings in said zone, the legality of said buildings, and then some examples of what you would be permitted to build of-right should you be fortunate enough to own some land in a given zone. You’ll also likely receive some color commentary from yours truly. Because honestly, you could go cure your insomnia by reading the zoning code yourself, so you must be coming to me for a little extra jazz (or RochesterSubway is the only website not blocked at your office for lunchtime reading).

In part 5, we’ll cover some extra information like advances in zoning (yikes!) as well as some best practices and their results in other cities. So be sure to join us next time when we discuss residential zoning in Rochester.

Update:
Reader Mike adds –

The City’s Dept. of Neighborhood and Business Development maintains the zoning map. It’s available from within the Property Information application, at http://maps.cityofrochester.gov external link

Use the “Choose Map” button in the top right of the application, and check the box for “zoning”.

• • •

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2015 at 9:20 pm and is filed under Architecture, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

18 Responses to “Filling In: Zoning Part 1, Introduction”

  1. Nick R says:

    I hope to learn more about parking, the most highly regarded and valuable land use!!!

  2. Ben says:

    You joke about the blandness of zoning code, but I am certainly interested in reading the rest of these articles.

  3. ken sato says:

    Rochester can really grow without zoning. The artificial, complex, peculiar Zoning codes destroy natural, organic growth of neighborhood which are created by really demand of people who live in the neighborhood. Roc will be more an exciting city. Zoning starts with “misunderstanding” that government can understand what is the need of land uses. Huston has no zoning but they do well, and has affordable rents than other cities with tighter zoning code. Think about that every time our city denies home owner to not rent finished attics, second unit in the lots, or two family units because of its zoning. We are jacking up the price of rent. Otherwise poor might be afford them without government subsidizes. If we want to help poor, we should really look into the unintended consequences of government policies.

  4. Just doing my civic duty to read them so you don’t have to! And thank you. I hope everyone enjoys it at least a little.

  5. Mike says:

    The City’s Dept. of Neighborhood and Business Development maintains the zoning map. It’s available from within the Property Information application, at http://maps.cityofrochester.gov

    Use the “Choose Map” button in the top right of the application, and check the box for “zoning”.

  6. Chris Stone says:

    Ken Sato: Generally I agree but sometimes the restrictions are due to the New York State Building Code (i.e. occupying attics) rather than the locally adopted zoning code.

    Also, Houston may not have zoning, but it still regulates land use through the use of deed restrictions and protective covenants.

    But I’m in full agreement that zoning, in general, uses the power of the government to protect middle and upper class homeowners and limits, to some degree, more creative and flexible building and housing forms. But many voters, and certainly most of the people with the means and motivation to show up at public hearings, like it that way. So much of Rochester is zoned single family because people demanded it when the zoning code was revised in 2003.

  7. Chris, thank you for hitting all my talking points for me. The only thing is the level of single family zoning. It’s not so different from other cities, surprisingly (although still not ok). I think that means it’s not directly 2003, but the whole process over the entire time there has been zoning.

    Mike, thank you for the direct link. I have been traveling, but I can edit it into the article. I really should have it there.

    Finally, parking will be covered with each individual zoning type and not as a comprehensive column. I just can’t bring myself to give parking that kind of attention.

  8. Chris Stone says:

    A bit off topic, but since you mentioned it, sadly, parking needs attention because it is STILL what motivates many planning and zoning decisions in the city. Updated as the code may be, it is still too biased to the needs of the car and not the needs of a human scaled city. Case in point: a proposed coffee house at 209 Monroe Avenue, going before the City Planning Commission on September 21 (http://www.cityofrochester.gov/planningcommission/).

    As one might expect with a mixed use building constructed in the mid-19th century in a dense, walkable, urban neighborhood, there is no on-site parking. Neighboring businesses are rallying against the coffee house because of perceived parking concerns. It makes me want to tear my hair out that people and businesses located in city neighborhoods don’t actually understand how cities (not car-oriented suburbs) work. Cities don’t work if every property has their own on-site parking. That’s not a city; that’s Henrietta with old buildings.

    Please tell the Planning Commission that the future of cities, including Rochester, is in being a city: dense, compact, walkable development NOT designed around the needs of the automobile.

    City Planning Commission contact: Jason Haremza, Sr. City Planner, (585) 428-7761 or haremzaj@cityofrochester.gov

  9. KMannKoopa says:

    As someone who is also a nerd about zoning, I am interested in this series.

    As part of my job I go through the zoning codes of many towns throughout the state, and I will say off the bat that Rochester’s is among the least restrictive out there. I like how in the manufacturing district there are basically no restrictions, and about the only thing you can’t have downtown is a junkyard.

    I’d like to see the next revision continue to be a form-based code. It certainly needs to be expanded to commercial districts, and perhaps in another 15 years to residential districts.

    I am currently part of the group working with Highland Hospital as they are rezoning their 1970s IPD to a new PD. This has been an interesting project, and it is an enlightening back and forth as we look to balance the desires of the Hospital vs. the desires of the Neighborhood.

    We are counting exactly on the zoning to keep our largely owner-occupied houses desirable exactly as Chris Stone points out. My personal views on it differ (I tend to be more pro-development), but only to a degree. We don’t want to see the hospital turn our neighborhood into a renter’s zone (even if higher end) like what has happened near Strong.

  10. KMannKoopa says:

    Chris,

    I can’t agree more on your point about parking. At the same time Rochester is truly unique having a maximum of 110% of the required parking. Nowhere else in Upstate NY have I seen such a thing. In fact, Case 1 — Family Dollar is asking for more parking.

    This is why I think Rochester’s main commercial strips — Portions of South, Monroe, Park, Culver, Winton, Dewey, Genesee, Lake, and Thurston, Main, Chili come to mind — should be targeted to convert to form-based commercial zoning on a neighborhood (i.e 2-4 story) scale — Rochester’s Center City East End zoning could serve as an example.

    In Family Dollar’s Case, I feel like if they want to provide more parking, it’s their money. However, they better conform to the City-Wide Design Guidelines and make sure that parking is screened and the development is on a pedestrian/mass-transit scale.

  11. Chris Stone says:

    Rochester’s parking maximum is entirely theoretical. In the 12 years the current code has existed, the Planning Commission, to my knowledge, has never denied a developer asking for more parking that what the code allows. Even a cursory follow up shows that years later, these approved parking lots are rarely, if ever, at capacity. Rite Aid at Monroe and Goodman is a case in point.

    I am wondering about your Highland Hospital issue. Other than it’s mere presence (and since it’s already there, this point is moot), I’m not sure how the hospital could turn a neighborhood into a “renters zone.” The real estate market is just responding to the laws of supply and demand. I’m not sure I agree that zoning (i.e. the government) should be used thwart market forces when it comes to housing, especially affordable rental housing.

    Regardless, zoning can force single family homes to remain single family homes, but no zoning code that I know of can force a single family home to be owner occupied. Rental of single family homes is not something zoning can address.

  12. 1.) The city, in fact, seems to love when people ask for more parking, because it makes it look like they are addressing a perceived (though imaginary) problem.

    2.) I am in the same boat as Chris. Zoning can keep single family homes single, but it can’t stop those owners from renting them out. If there is demand for rental units, it will be filled with supply – either constructed, or through the conversion of existing units. I don’t see Highland Hospital suddenly creating a great deal of demand for rental units even if it’s larger. The reason for all the rentals at Strong are due to the large number of students (and residencies) involved in the operation. If you can rent a place right by the hospital, you can be car light, even with a family. It makes an incredible amount of sense economically.

    3.) While I do think form Based codes are the future, I believe it will be really challenging to get away from use based zoning. While one of the things that allows form based zoning to work is that we don’t build buildings like we used to (old factories make great loft buildings, new factories do not, and thus would not be in a neighborhood like that), the fact remains that people are going to want to separate themselves from other dangers, real or imagined. This includes bars, anything that attracts children (especially teenagers), and convenience stores (or hotels if you live in Charlotte). This can be difficult (if not impossible) to address in a purely form based system.

  13. KMannKoopa says:

    Perhaps I overstated the fear of the Hospital causing renters. I personally don’t buy it, but as I represent the neighborhood, it is a concern of my constituents as many feel (rightly or wrongly) that Strong’s expansion displaced homeowners in the Upper Mt. Hope neighborhood.

    The PD process is about NIMBY management. Plain and simple, a Hospital is a classic NIMBY — noise, traffic, and neighborhood street parking. The hospital grew up with the neighborhood (you can’t really say one came before the other), and it is certainly a fact of life we all deal with. The overall stance, and my personal stance is varying degrees of “it’s their property, they can do what they want to do”. We just want to make sure the residential facing-sides of the PD maintain a good character with the neighborhood — this is mostly about the bulk requirements and materials.

  14. This is an intriguing use of the term NIMBY. In any event, I agree that the right way to approach this is to work with the hospital to maintain the quality of the residential fronting portions of it. And to know that setbacks can help with massing immensely, as people experience a building from the street, not from 40 feet in the air.

  15. Chris Stone says:

    I have to say I’m loving this conversation. Zoning can be dry and tedious, but it regulates so much of what affects our daily lives.

    On the hospital issue, other than ambulance sirens, which I assume are mostly relegated to South Avenue, how much noise can a hospital make? I’d take a hospital in my neighborhood, even over my back fence, any day, over a bunch of bars or drive-through restaurants.

    I get the on-street parking issue, but the bottom line is that public streets, and the parking thereon, belong to everyone, not just the people who live there. Rochesterians have to get past the mentality of free, dedicated parking within a few steps of your front door. The way real cities work, sometimes you might have to park a block or two from your house or apartment.

  16. Tom Warth says:

    Excellent way to start. “A page of history is worth a volume of logic.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in New York Trust Co. v. Eisner, 256 U.S. 345, 349 (1921).

    I am looking forward to future parts.

  17. John says:

    If anything I’d be afraid of the hospital trying to buy out properties for expansion and creating a big deadzone in the neighborhood.

    The parking obsession in Rochester is troubling. There have been several small businesses that have had to fight the city because they didn’t have the required amount of off street parking. You’d think filling a vacant store front is more important than where to store cars that customers may or may not have used.

  18. Olen Tauscher says:

    Youre so cool!


Post a Comment...



  Most Popular...
  1. Inside Rochester’s Terrence Tower
    (views: 35,277)
  2. Pot Holds Bowie in Rochester
    (views: 33,914)
  3. Inside Abandoned Medley Centre (a.k.a Irondequoit Mall)
    (views: 24,569)
  4. University of Rochester’s Lost Swimming Pool
    (views: 20,217)
  5. Inside Rochester’s Abandoned Walters Psychiatric Building
    (views: 16,236)
  6. Deep Inside Rochester’s Big Old Sibley Building
    (views: 16,022)
  7. Abandoned Glass House
    (views: 14,350)
  8. History of Seabreeze Amusement Park
    (views: 13,322)
  9. The Best Holiday Light Displays in Rochester v1.0
    (views: 12,753)
  10. Abandoned Girl Scout Camp Beech-Wood
    (views: 12,622)
  11. The Old Barber House
    (views: 10,297)
  12. Durand Eastman Park and the Lady In White
    (views: 10,142)
  13. Exploring the Caves of Rochester, NY
    (views: 9,313)
  14. Inside the Abandoned Camp Haccamo, Penfield
    (views: 9,180)
  15. Abandoned Theme Park: Frontier Town
    (views: 8,789)
  16. Rochester Mafia, the Banana King, and the Infamous “Barrel Murder”
    (views: 8,585)
  17. Inside the Abandoned Vacuum Oil Refinery
    (views: 8,561)
  18. Inside 65-67 Chestnut St. – Old Hotel Richford
    (views: 6,406)
  19. Inside RG&E Beebee Power Plant – Just Before (and during) Demolition
    (views: 5,945)
  20. Inside the Abandoned Sykes Datatronics Building
    (views: 5,459)

Topics

  • Architecture (63)
  • Art + Culture (117)
  • Events (99)
  • Freebies (9)
  • Interviews (32)
  • Opinion (107)
  • Other (1)
  • Reader Submitted Stories (126)
  • Rochester Apartments (4)
  • Rochester Destinations (97)
  • Rochester Gifts (18)
  • Rochester History (199)
  • Rochester Homes for Sale (6)
  • Rochester Images (207)
  • Rochester News (334)
  • Rochester Subway (51)
  • Rochester Subway Stories (17)
  • Subways Around the Globe (11)
  • Train/Railroad Stuff (47)
  • Transit + Infrastructure (200)
  • Uncategorized (15)
  • Urban Development (258)
  • Urban Exploration (60)

  • Rochester Subway Information

    Get Email Updates...
    Stay up-to-date on Rochester-related stories, artifacts, and ideas that you won't find in the mainstream news. Totally free, never spammy, and you can unsubscribe at any time.


    ¤ See Past Issues
    ¤ Our Privacy Policy

    Links

    Get Involved...

    ¤ Reconnect Rochester

    Related Blogs...

    ¤ A Town Square
    ¤ Moderate Urban Champ
    ¤ Our Tiny Earth
    ¤ The Rochesterian
    ¤ RocVille
    ¤ Rust Wire

    Resources...

    ¤ RochesterDowntown.com
    ¤ Rochester's Public Library
    ¤ ROCwiki



    Want to Advertise
    on RocSubway?
    Drop us a line.


    Other ways to follow RochesterSubway.com...

    Subscribe for Email Updates

    Email

    Become a Facebook Fan

    Facebook

    Follow Us on Twitter

    Twitter

    RSS Feed

    RSS

    Questions + Comments

    For questions about the Rochester Subway Poster or about your order, please email info@rochestersubway.com.

    Want to SAVE Shipping Costs?
    Buy the Subway Posters at these local shops...

    About the Rochester Subway Poster...

    ¤ Parkleigh [ ...map it ]
    ¤ Poster Art [ ...map it ]
    ¤ Rochester Public Library Store [ ...map it ]

    ¤ Rochester Subway Poster Press Release
    ¤ Article by Otto M. Vondrak
    ¤ Design by Mike Governale

    More About The Rochester Subway

    Help Support...

    ¤ Rochester Subway (Wikipedia)
    ¤ The End of the Line - Rochester's Subway, DVD
    ¤ Abandoned Subway Photos (Opacity.us)
    ¤ Walking the Rails (YouTube Video)

    ¤ Friends of RochesterSubway.com