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Rules for official plans promulgated.

Rules for official Plans promulgated

Zoning Advice

A developer will generally apply to the City of New York for a zoning map change in order to enhance the value of the developer's property. The zoning action being considered will usually be pursued by the developer if the resulting enhancement of property value seems to be appropriate, relative to the probability of success in securing the zoning approval. In evaluating the risk inherent in the zoning venture, a developer should take into account any relevant, adopted, city land use plan, since zoning actions tend to accord with such plans. A developer should therefore understand the implications of the City Planning Commission's new rules concerning the processing of plans pursuant to Charter 197-a (the "Rules for Plans"; effective July 26, 1991).

A Charter 197-a plan (a "Plan") may take the form of a comprehensive or master plan for a neighborhood, community district, borough or other broad geographic area, which covers housing, industry, commercial activity, transportation, land use, open space, community facilities and the infrastructure. Alternatively, a Plan may take the form of a targeted plan covering a specific land-related problem affecting the city as a whole, a borough, a community district or a neighborhood. A Plan would recommend goals and strategies for promoting orderly growth, improvement and future development of the subject area.

Significantly, a Plan is intended to direct city zoning actions, and not merely provide information, analysis or recommendations on zoning issues, as indicated by the stated purpose of a Plan:

"(a)n adopted plan shall serve as a policy to guide subsequent actions by city agencies. The [City Planning] Commission shall consider pertinent adopted plans in its review of land use and zoning actions, where such consideration is consistent with the City Charter and general law."

A Plan must be "In accordance with sound planning policy" in order for it to be adopted by the city. The Rules for Plans do not clearly specify the detailed standards of "sound planning policy", but do indicate certain relevant lines of inquiry:

1) Whether the proposed Plan has a goal of promoting the orderly growth, improvement and future development of the community, borough or city

2) Whether the proposed Plan will have a favorable or no unfavorable: general impact on the community, borough or city; long-term impact; impact on economic and housing opportunities; impact on future growth and development opportunities; impact on the physical environment; and impact on the fair geographic distribution of city facilities

3) Whether the proposed Plan is consistent with other Charter-based city plans or policies, including the Ten Year Capital Strategy, the Zoning and Planning Report, the borough and mayoral Strategic Policy Statements and any other pertinent adopted Plan.

City Planning Commission and Council approvals are needed to adopt a Plan. The Mayor, the City Planning Commission, the Department of City Planning, a Borough President, a borough board or a community board -- but no landowner, builders' association, civic association or Councilmember -- may sponsor a Plan.

Treated inadequately by the Rules for Plans is the situation where a developer's proposed zoning map change is inconsistent with a previously approved Plan. For example, the developer might be proposing a zoning map change to confer greater residential building bulk potential on the developer's site, although the adopted Plan for the neighborhood might call for reduced residential building bulk potential at that location. The adopted Plan should not be treated lightly, since the stated purpose of a Plan is to "serve as a policy to guide subsequent actions by city agencies", and the City Planning Commission is required to "consider pertinent adopted plans in its review of...zoning actions". Accordingly, a particular Plan which has already been adopted would most probably have to be amended in order for the city to approve a zoning map change at odds with the previously approved Plan. Since a developer enjoys the standing to prosecute a zoning application affecting the developer's land, but has no parallel standing to sponsor a Plan amendment, the developer would need the City Planning Commission's assistance in initiating the Plan amendment.

In light of the foregoing, an adopted Plan should have a substantial bearing on the city's receptivity to a developer's zoning map change proposal. Developers who contemplate pursuing a zoning map change should therefore: (1) determine whether there is consistency between any relevant, adopted Plan and the zoning proposal; (2) be able to demonstrate such consistency, or be able to devise convincing arguments in support of amending the particular Plan so that the Plan becomes consistent with the zoning proposal; and (3) participate individually or collectively through a builders' association in the review of proposed Plans to ensure that an equitable Plan is ultimately adopted by the city.
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Title Annotation:Zoning Advice
Author:Kowaloff, Steven D.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:column
Date:Jul 17, 1991
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