City Council discusses Watertown's proposed zoning changes

Aug. 9—WATERTOWN — City Council members are getting their first look at the city's proposed zoning rewrite.

They were given a 40-minute introduction on Monday night about the proposed new zoning ordinance and told what comes next.

"You're the first people to see it," said consultant Lisa Nagle, whose Saratoga Springs-based firm, Elan Planning Design and Landscape Architecture, helped write it.

Council members were given an overview of the document on Monday night.

The public is invited to a pair of open houses today about the draft zoning ordinance, with the first one from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the south reading room of Flower Memorial Library and the second from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the lobby of City Hall, 245 Washington St.

Ms. Nagle told council members the revisions are more user friendly than the existing zoning laws.

"I think it's more modern," Councilman Cliff G. Olney III said.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith suggested adding another open house after the public has a chance "to review it, digest it and have questions."

The city will post the draft ordinance on its website on Wednesday. The public can provide input online through Aug. 31.

The city is updating its decades-old zoning laws to make them easier to use, to bring them in line with modern standards and practices, and to help implement the objectives identified in the city's Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2019.

It's the first time that the city's zoning laws have been overhauled since they were written in 1959.

The planning department and Elan have been working on the zoning rewrite since May 2020.

A public hearing also will be part of the process. The rezoning will be discussed at a work session in September.

The Jefferson County Planning Board also has to review the document. It must go through the state's environmental review process, with it going before council for final approval possibly in November.

The zoning project is entirely funded by $148,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds.