October 23, 2021

Hearing set on city’s codes

Cortland wants public input on whether to make further changes

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

A pedestrian and car pass by 18 Otter Creek Place, Cortland, a student housing unit in an R-1 zone. The city is proposing that non-owner occupied buildings in R-1 zones pave their parking areas and paint lines on them.

After completing a three-year effort to overhaul the city’s zoning ordinances, the Cortland Common Council will have a public hearing Aug. 20 on whether to further amend the city’s code.

Many of the proposed changes are minor, but a few are more substantive. Several of the issues pertain to student housing in R-1 low-density residential zones.

The details

What: Public hearing
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 20
Where: Cortland Common Council Chambers, 25 Court St., Cortland
Topic: Proposed zoning changes

The proposed changes would address:
• Paved vs. gravel parking: One proposed change would require R-1 zone residences that are not-owner occupied to have concrete or asphalt parking areas in which parking spots are clearly drawn. City code now allows for unmarked, gravel driveways for residences in zone R-1; the proposed amendment would change that for residences that are not-owner occupied.

“Is this a change? Yes,” said Mayor Brian Tobin. “Is it a significant change? No.”

The proposed change, he said, would prevent vehicles from parking haphazardly on a property, or on the lawn.

“If you have parking spots, you have to delineate where those parking spots are,” he said.

• Maximum parking cap: Another proposed change would eliminate a provision that caps maximum parking based on the number of units and occupants of the residence. Instead, a property’s parking area would limited by rules that restrict structures, parking and sidewalks to 60% of the total lot, said city Zoning Officer Robert Rhea.

• “Single-family neighborhoods”: Phrasing would be changed that characterizes the R-1 zone, changing “singlefamily neighborhoods” to “traditional single-family neighborhoods.”

“The purpose of the R-1 district is to support the vision and goals contained within the City of Cortland Comprehensive Plan through the preservation and enhancement of stable and developing traditional single-family neighborhoods,” the amended zoning code would read.

The purpose of this proposed change would be “to give people a more clear idea of the expectations” for zoning in the R-1 district, Tobin said.

• Fencing: Maximum fence height in residential districts would be changed to 4 feet from 3 feet.

• Digital signs: They would be allowed by special use permit; they are currently prohibited.

Rhea said he was suggesting the change because “I’m concerned that we’re being too restrictive.”

• Banners: Up to two banners can now be displayed without a permit on properties for no more than 30 days. A proposed change would specify that this 30-day limit is a total number per year.

• Site plan review application procedure: Site plans could be submitted 10 days or more before a planning commission meeting, rather than 30 days. Some of the other changes are clarifications.

One reiterates that the city does not allow ground-mounted solar units in residential districts, but does allow them by special permit in the general industrial zone. The other changes pertain to corrections.

Mayor Brian Tobin said the council would hold a public hearing at the beginning of the Aug. 20 council meeting and vote on the proposed changes later in the meeting.