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Projects & Proposals > Citywide > Special Natural Area District Printer Friendly Version
Special Natural Area District Rezoning - Approved!
Overview | Land Use | Proposed Text Amendments | Summary Table
Jamaica Hill
Wetlands and trees in Lighthouse Hill, Staten Island

Steep Slope in Todt Hill, Staten Island

Rock Outcropping in Riverdale, Bronx
The Department of City Planning proposes to amend the Special Natural Area District (SNAD) text of the Zoning Resolution to improve preservation of significant natural features in parts of Staten Island, the Bronx, and Queens. The purpose of the Special Natural Area District, created in 1975, is to guide development to preserve unique natural features by requiring City Planning Commission review of new developments and site alteration on primarily vacant land. Significant natural features include rock outcroppings, trees and forests, wetlands and water features, and steep slopes. The SNAD is mapped in Community Districts 1 and 2 of Staten Island, Community District 8 of the Bronx, and Community District 7 of Queens.

The Department initiated the text amendment upon request from various civic groups and community leaders. The Staten Island SNAD Task Force, which includes many civic associations, the Office of the Borough President, the Department of Buildings, Council Member Michael McMahon, and Council Member James Oddo, has helped guide the process in Staten Island. Community District 8 in the Bronx (Riverdale) crafted a 197a community plan adopted in 2003 which also asked for changes to the SNAD rules.

Current Regulations: Under the current regulations, all development (new buildings) in the SNAD requires either City Planning Commission authorization or special permit. Natural features are protected by limiting modifications in topography, by preserving tree, plant and marine life and natural water courses, and by encouraging clustered development.

When the Special Natural Area District was adopted and mapped in 1975, any zoning lot of less than 40,000 square feet containing a residential building was grandfathered to allow as-of-right site alteration and building enlargement. On grandfathered lots only development of new buildings requires City Planning Commission review. Therefore, natural features on grandfathered lots, which represent more than half of the residential lots and 11% of total land area in the SNAD, are vulnerable to destruction and alteration.

The City Planning Commission has broad discretion to limit or modify development in order to protect natural features. Most applications request authorization to modify topography and remove trees in order to construct a single-family detached house. City Planning Commission review focuses on compliance with minimum standards for grading, paving and drainage and tree preservation (1 per 1000 sq. ft of zoning lot area). In most cases, the City Planning Commission requests changes to the building footprint, location, and the amount of paving and grading for driveways, patios and swimming pools in order to save trees or reduce unnatural paved surfaces.

Proposed Changes: The goals of the proposed changes to the Special Natural Area District are to focus preservation efforts on significant natural features and to base review on the presence of natural features rather than the date of a home’s development, as is the case with grandfathering. In sum, the changes will:
1) Add stronger steep slope, tree, and vegetation preservation measures, including lot coverage controls and private road design standards

2) Replace the grandfather provision with regulations that apply equally to developed and vacant lots to preserve significant natural features

3) Allow as-of-right development guided by performance standards on small lots with no significant natural features

4) Simplify select actions to focus review on significant natural features

5) Improve the plant list for landscaping
Public Review:
The Department presented the application to the City Planning Commission on September 20, 2004, initiating the public review process. The application was reviewed and approved by Community Boards 1 and 2 in Staten Island and Community Board 8 in the Bronx. Community Board 7 in Queens chose not to comment on the proposed amendments. The Staten Island Borough President, the Staten Island Borough Board, and the Bronx Borough President also approved the application. The City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the application on December 8, 2004. Based on comments received during public review, the Department revised the application. Revisions are described in the CPC Report. The Commission approved the text amendments as revised on January 5, 2005. City Council approved the text amendments on February 2, 2005. (PDF Document Read the CPC Report).

PDF Document View the adopted text amendments.

For more information on the Special Natural Area District zoning text amendment, contact the Staten Island Office of the Department of City Planning at (718) 556-7379, or the Bronx Office of the Department of City Planning (718) 220-8500.

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Brief explanations of terms in
green italics can be viewed by clicking on the term. Words and phrases followed by an asterisk (*) are defined terms in the Zoning Resolution, primarily in Section 12-10. Consult the Zoning Resolution for the official and legally binding definitions of these words and phrases.

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