City planner recommends alternative for Washington Street project

City planner recommends alternative for Washington Street project
Watertown City Hall (Source: WWNY)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - City planner Michael Lumbis is suggesting a different way forward for a proposed dentist’s office in the 1300 block of Washington Street.

In order to build the dentist’s office and parking lot, three homes would be demolished - one already has been, and two more would be. The plan is controversial; some people who live in the area object, saying it will drive down property values and could lead to flooding problems.

The Watertown city council was to have before it Monday night a resolution to change the zoning in the area from "Residence B' to “Residence C.” The zoning in the area has to be changed before the office can be built.

But in a memo to council Friday morning, Michael Lumbis, city planning director, writes reclassifying the zoning from "B" to "C" poses two problems.

For one, he writes, “rezoning these three parcels to Residence C would amount to spot zoning.” (Spot zoning refers to the rezoning of land to a category different from the surrounding area - people who deal with zoning try to avoid doing that, as a rule.)

For another, he notes, "The change would remove the limits on the operational scale of physicians and dental offices in all Residence C districts citywide.

“This change may cause unintended consequences in some of the City’s other neighborhoods.”

So what’s the alternative?

Lumbis recommends rezoning the land “Limited Business.” There’s already a Limited Business district next to the proposed dentist’s office and the “Limited Business designation also allows very limited, lower impact types of uses, which would minimize the future impact to the surrounding neighborhood.”

It’s not clear whether any compromise will clear city council. The Watertown Times reported this week that people living near the project have started circulating a petition to oppose it, which will force a four out of five “super-majority” of the council to approve the project.

At least two members of the council will honor neighbors' wishes that the project not move forward, the newspaper reported.

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