** Mayor Brown, you boasted in 2012 that the Buffalo Green Code would “help build a new foundation for Buffalo’s economy” and “revolutionize the way Buffalo does business.” Twelve months ago, city residents were urged (with three exclamation points!!!) by your Office of Strategic Planning to submit their written comments no later than October 6, 2014 so that the proposed new zoning and development law could be presented to the City’s Common Council by the end of 2014, and a vote on its adoption held by March 2015.
Despite all the anticipation and hyperbole over a project you once described as “literally rewriting Buffalo’s ‘development DNA’”, there has been virtual silence from City Hall since October 2014 regarding a five-year effort one local newspaper claimed “could become a signature achievement of [your] administration.” In fact, the official Buffalo Green Code “Event Calendar” had its last posting on October 8, 2014, and there are no “Upcoming Events” listed for the remainder of 2015.
So why, Mayor Brown, has your pet project disappeared from public view? I seriously doubt that the tight-lipped staff at City Hall will be allowed by you, their Boss, to publicly express the true reason for the slow-tracking of a process you once claimed would “fast-forward[ ] Buffalo’s regulatory framework into the 21st century.” And I’m pretty certain you won’t be giving me a call to confide in me. [Just in case: (716) – 687-1902 is the number, whenever it is convenient for you.]
If I were an optimist, I might think that your Office of Strategic Planning has been diligently working the past 11 or 12 months to remedy the many problems in the June 2014 Green Code draft. As I addressed at greater detail in an October 2014 posting, once you look beyond the Green Code’s bells-and-whistles, you have a proposed zoning and land use law that empowers developers at the expense of the City of Buffalo’s residents. In case you missed my blog entry (as well as the cover story in ArtVoice last October), my greatest concerns were as follows:
- Despite seemingly countless “information meetings” and workshops held by the Green Code Team, the typical Buffalonian – and, perhaps, Common Council member – is still not in a position to readily determine how the proposed zoning code would impact their homes and neighborhoods.
- The draft Green Code would bring more uncertainty – not less – to Buffalo’s residential neighborhoods.
- The draft Green Code would allow commercial and non-traditional residential activities on virtually every residential street.
- Under the proposed Green Code, even Buffalo’s most exclusive streets and neighborhoods would experience encroachment by non-residential uses and non-traditional residential activities.
- The “Special Use Permit” – a zoning device used more than 240 times in the draft Green Code – provides much less protection to nearby residents and property owners than zoning amendments and variances.
- The Green Code Team fails to adequately explain why the proposed new law emphasizes “Form” – the types of buildings – over “Function” – how the buildings will be used.
- The draft Green Code allows large commercial buildings with little or no setbacks on residential street without providing any meaningful protection for nearby residents.
- The Green Code Team has broken its promise to the residents of the Elmwood Village to preserve the character of neighborhoods and encourage development consistent with prevailing patterns. [Also see my July 17, 2014 post.]
- Rather than protect the low-income residents of McCarley Gardens and the Fruit Belt neighborhood from encroachment by the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the draft Green Code would increase the threat and pace of displacement and gentrification.
- The proposed elimination of all minimum parking requirements is unfair to existing businesses and nearby residential neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, past experience with City Hall has not left me in an optimistic frame-of-mind. I am more inclined to agree with the reason suggested to me by a friend who also is a close observer of the Buffalo Green Code process. He believes that you did not want your developer-friendly [that is, resident-unfriendly] proposal to be a topic of discussion among Common Council candidates and the general public during the fall 2015 primary and election season.
That being the case, I guess we should expect a notice in early December that a public hearing on the proposed Buffalo Green Code will be held before the Common Council on December 22, 2015, a very inconvenient time for a vast majority of Buffalonians. Convenient or not, I plan to be there.
With All Due Respect,
Art Giacalone, City of Buffalo resident