Big Changes in the Village of Westbury: Zoning Amendment Sows the Seeds for New Transit-Oriented Development
December 30, 2019
On December 5, 2019, the Village of Westbury Board of Trustees adopted legislation creating the Maple Union Transit-Oriented Development District (or “Maple Union TOD”). The sweeping new law eliminates the Village’s industrial zoning districts along the Long Island Railroad corridor and replaces them with seven mixed-use subdistricts serving as the foundation for a new downtown area consisting of medium-density residential buildings, ground-floor retail and commercial uses, and significant community and cultural amenities and open space. With some subdistricts allowing buildings as tall as five stories—and perhaps even taller—the Maple Union TOD opens the door to exciting and transformative development opportunities in the heart of Nassau County.
Following its receipt of a State Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant in 2016, the Village established a local planning committee and commissioned a multiyear study into ways to revitalize the Village’s downtown areas. It was through that process that the Village developed its plan to transform the Village’s underutilized industrial districts into an expansion of the Village’s downtown by turning the area into “Long Island’s model transit-oriented, diverse, walkable, arts-centric downtown.” (See § 248-47[E]).
The new legislation focuses on rezoning the “Maple Union Triangle,” 53 acres of (formerly) industrially-zoned sites bounded by Post Avenue, Maple Avenue, School Street and Union Avenue in the Village of Westbury. (See attached graphic: Cultural Sensitivity Map). Six of the seven newly-formed subdistricts (MU-R2 through MU-R7) allow multistoried development that can be solely residential or can include ground-level retail and/or commercial uses; the amendment lists more than 30 permitted retail/commercial uses. (See §§ 248-351—357). Restaurants are also permitted at street-level within those subdistricts with a Special Permit from the Village Board of Trustees. The uses in subdistrict MU-R1 are restricted to lower density attached housing and townhomes, and houses of worship (See § 248-350), all of which are also permitted in subdistricts MU-R2 through MU-R7.
Another key aspect of the new legislation is its incentive zoning provisions, which are found at Section 248-359. Within the Maple Union TOD, the base height restriction for all new development is three stories (or 40 feet). (See Maple Union District Schedule of Regulations). However, for projects in subdistricts MU-R4 through MU-R7, the Board of Trustees may grant height bonuses in exchange for a broad range of public benefits that may be donated to the Village. The list of eligible public benefits includes affordable workforce housing (in excess of the minimum State requirement), age-restricted housing units, veteran preferential housing units, off-street public parking, open space and park improvements, streetscape improvements, and several others. (See § 248-359[B]).
The most generous height bonuses are available in the MU-R4, R5 and R6 subdistricts, where the Board of Trustees can approve building heights of up to five stories (or 65 feet). (See Schedule of Regulations). However, the bonuses could exceed even those thresholds. The legislation explicitly states that “[t]he Board of Trustees expressly reserves to itself the right to grant bonuses exceeding those set forth in the Schedule of Regulations, if it deems such appropriate.” (See § 248-359[C]). It is therefore conceivable that, for the right project and for the rights public benefit, the Board of Trustees could grant even greater height bonuses.
Some ancillary, but equally significant aspects of the new legislation are the changes it makes in the Village’s existing business districts on Post Avenue and the privatization of waste collection and disposal for all new development within the Maple Union TOD. In the Business Districts B-1, B-2 and B-4, all new buildings must be set back from their front property line 12 to 20 feet to accommodate new, expanded sidewalks built by the property owner and to the Village’s specifications. (See §§ 248-126-a, 136-a, 152-a). Within the Maple Union TOD, the owners/operators of new developments are required to secure and maintain private garbage and recyclables collection agreements and must record a covenant memorializing, in perpetuity, the private sanitation and recycling obligations for the property. (See § 248-362).
Finally, it is important to note that all new development within the Maple Union TOD is subject to the new zoning and approval procedures set forth under the new legislation. (See § 248-360). The old industrial zoning was expressly discontinued. (See Ch. 248, Art. XXIII, XXIV). Any industrial uses lawfully existing prior to the enactment of the new legislation are now (presumably) preexisting non-conforming uses subject to the Village’s law on non-conforming uses. (See § 238-232).
Copies of the new legislation and Schedule of Regulations can be found on the Village website www.villageofwestbury.org (click “Zoning Code for the Maple-Union Transit Oriented Development (MU TOD).”