The proposal, passed unanimously by the board’s Land Use Committee, would downzone the growing residential community to maintain the neighborhood’s character. Walter Sanchez, chair of the committee, said the plan is to simply “match what is already built” in the neighborhood.
Pointing to images of overdeveloped buildings that stick out from the rest of the block, Sanchez said downzoning would ensure “that cannot happen here.”
“We don’t think it looks nice,” he said. “We don’t think that’s good for the character of the neighborhood.”
He estimated that under current zoning, developers could build higher and for different uses, which would increase the population in the popular community.
“The overcrowding that strains the infrastructure, schools and parking in neighborhoods must be stopped if we want to live in a neighborhood that we recognize,” Sanchez said.
According to Sanchez, when a neighborhood is downzoned, the Department of City Planning typically looks to make up for the loss of housing by upzoning other areas. That’s where the second part of the proposal comes in.
The plan would create a new “M-X” designation replacing all of Ridgewood’s current industrial zones. The rezoning would allow a developer to build up to five stories, but the first three floors must be for manufacturing uses. The two additional floors would be residential, creating a mixed-use property.
“Going up five stories, we don’t feel, would really deter from the character of the neighborhood,” Sanchez said.
The proposal requires that at least half of the residential units must be affordable under the city’s affordable housing criteria. The entire mixed-use building must also be a condominium, and both industrial and residential occupants of the building must be owners.
The owner will not be allowed to sublet the space. The rationale for this requirement is to reduce flipping of properties to renters, according to the proposal.
“We think that by doing this designation, it will actually be encouraging for people who own these manufacturing properties to build,” Sanchez said.
The plan estimates that as many as 1,000 new units of residential housing could be built if enacted.
The three floors of manufacturing could be used for high-tech industrial or light manufacturing purposes. That does not include hotels, self-storage facilities, hospitals, wholesale buildings, houses of worship, gyms or event establishments.
Similar designations have been used in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Portland and Boulder, Colorado.
“We think we have a way that we can help the affordable housing stock, and manufacturing in Ridgewood,” he said. “We’re putting the two of them together.”
The only member to vote against the proposal was Vincent Arcuri, chair of Community Board 5. He said he didn’t agree with the premise of the M-X district.
“I don’t think we can mandate that property owners must do condominiums,” he said. “You can’t tell someone what they want to do, a rental or a condo. So I’m against it.”