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Pittsford Town, Monroe County, New York

The Town of Pittsford, population 29,405 (2010), is located in Monroe County, ten miles southeast of Rochester, New York. The Town recognizes and appreciates the rural character created by its farms and natural communities consisting of wood lots, meadows, streams and wetlands.

In 1996, the Town completed a program for implementing its comprehensive plan. This program, called the Greenprint, evaluated the Town’s natural assets and called for the permanent preservation of 2,000 acres of the best agricultural, ecological, scenic and open space resources remaining in the community. Of this total area, Purchase of Development Rights is expected to permanently preserve 1,200 acres. The remaining 800 acres are to be protected through incentive zoning and “50-50” zoning, which requires designation of 50 percent of a development site for conservation purposes. The incentive zoning option offers various alternatives including TDR.

Process

To qualify for one of the incentives provided in Pittsford’s code, developers can chose to provide any of seven different community benefits including the placement of conservation easements on agricultural, open space, scenic, ecological or historic lands.

In return for providing one of the community benefits listed in the code, Pittsford’s incentive zoning allows increases of up to 100 percent in residential density within portions of the Rural Residential District (RRAA) and the Suburban Residential District (SRAA). The other incentives offered include changes in required lot area, changes in use, reduction/elimination of the recreation fee, reduction of road construction standards and the ability to locate required open space on a separate parcel of land.

Developers propose incentive zoning by submitting an application that include the requested incentive, the proposed amenity, the estimated value of the amenity and a narrative demonstrating how the amenity benefits the community and how the incentive is consistent with the Town’s goals and objectives. If the application is considered worthy of further consideration, the Town Board transmits it to the Planning Board. The Planning Board holds a public workshop on the application and forwards a recommendation to the Town Board. Following a public hearing, the Town Board renders a decision on the application supported by five findings, including a finding on whether or not the proposed benefit is commensurate with the proposed incentive.

Program Status

According to Martin Brewster, Deputy Commissioner of Public Works, the Town’s incentive zoning provisions have been used three times. Of those times, the TDR provisions have been used once. The TDR-related project involves seven phases and a preservation parcel will be deeded to the Town as each phase is completed. In 2004, Pittsford was offered an opportunity to completely preserve a farm by paying $400,000 for the 50 percent of the land area that would otherwise be entitled to development. Pittsford declined to do that because the farm did not rank high on its list of preservation priorities.

In a letter of April 2005, Martin W. Brewster, Director Planning, Zoning & Development, advised that the Town had adopted a new zoning district called the Rural Residential South Pittsford (RRSP) for lands south of the New York State Thruway. Developers of 20-acre or larger parcels in the RRSP zone are allowed to go from a maximum density of one unit per five acres to as high as one unit per acre by meeting specific criteria for amenities as presented in the South of the Thruway Update to the Town of Pittsford Comprehensive Plan. These seven criteria include the preservation of agricultural lands, the protection of significant open space resources including farmland and wildlife habitat and the adaptive reuse of farm structures, barns and surrounding pastures.