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Projects & Proposals > Citywide > Special Natural Area District Printer Friendly Version
Special Natural Area District Rezoning - Approved!
Proposed Text Amendments
Overview | Land Use | Proposed Text Amendments | Summary Table
The Department of City Planning proposes zoning text amendments to better meet the goals of the Special Natural Area District. PDF Document View the proposed amendments. Following is a summary of the proposed changes:

1) Add stronger steep slope, tree and vegetation preservation measures adapted from the Special Hillsides Preservation District mapped in Staten Island (see Article XI, Chapter 9 of the Zoning Resolution, adopted in 1987, revised 1999), including lot coverage controls and private road standards.

The SNAD amendment will incorporate standards from the Hillsides district. The newer Hillsides standards are more effective than the current SNAD regulations in guiding development to preserve steep slopes, hillsides, trees and vegetation and prevent erosion. The text change will:

a) Incorporate the Hillsides definitions for slope:
i) Tier I (0 to 10% flat topography)
ii) Tier II (10 to 25% hillside topography)
iii) Steep Slope greater than 25%.

The SNAD definition of steep slope will change from 15% or greater, to 25% or greater slope. All topography between 10 and 25% will become part of the Tier II category and will continue to require City Planning Commission authorization. The SNAD steep slope authorization will be changed to match the more effective Hillsides steep slope authorization.

b) Adopt the Hillsides building lot-coverage controls for hillsides and steep slopes so that permitted lot coverage decreases as degree of slope increases.

Tier ITier I
Tier IITier II
Steep SlopeSteep Slope

Critical Root Zone
Critical Root Zone
View a larger image
c) Increase tree preservation and planting requirements to save the greatest of 51% oftree credits originally on site or 1 tree credit per 1000 square feet of zoning lot.

d) Specify erosion controls and protect the critical root zone of trees during construction.

e) Adopt the Hillsides grading controls and site planning standards for private roads and driveways to fit roads into the landscape and reduce the amount of paving.

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

Over 50% of lots in the SNAD are grandfathered and do not require preservation of natural features. When the 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 site alteration and building enlargement as-of-right. Currently, only new development on a grandfathered lot requires City Planning Commission review.

Under the current regulations, natural features on grandfathered lots are not well protected. Enlargement of grandfathered residential buildings and alteration of natural features on grandfathered sites, which includes site grading and removal of all trees and other natural features, are permitted as-of-right. The district has seen the enlargement of grandfathered homes to their maximum building footprint, the cut, fill and paving of natural topography to the property line and the removal of all trees on some grandfathered lots. These changes have a considerable effect on natural features and neighborhood character.

DCP proposes to replace the grandfather clause in order to protect significant natural features on grandfathered lots. As a result, site alteration and most building enlargement on formerly grandfathered lots would require City Planning Commission review. Development of new buildings on most formerly grandfathered lots would still require City Planning Commission review unless they meet new criteria allowing as-of-right development described below.

If a formerly grandfathered lot is Tier I (less than 10% slope), less than 10,000 sq. ft. lot area, and has no significant natural features, development or enlargement up to 2,500 sq. ft. of lot coverage will be permitted as-of-right subject to performance standards.

3) On small lots with no significant natural features, allow as-of-right development guided by performance standards

The Department of City Planning concluded that City Planning Commission review of small sites with generic natural features such as flat topography and scattered trees could be made as-of-right as long as performance standards are specified and followed. The City Planning Commission would focus resources on significant natural features.

The new standards will regulate all building enlargement, site alteration and development based on lot size, topography and presence of natural features. Both vacant lots and formerly grandfathered lots will fall into several new categories:

A site that could be developed as-of-right subject to performance standards.
New As-of-Right Category - Enlargement or development of up to 2,500 square feet total footprint permitted as-of-right if site is 10,000 square feet or less, Tier I topography and has no significant natural features. Project must meet performance standards to save trees.

All other development, enlargement or site alteration would continue to require City Planning Commission review for certification or authorization. For example:
If project meets as-of-right criteria but cannot meet performance standards
If project meets as-of-right criteria but wants to develop more than 2,500 square feet
If lot size is greater than 10,000 square feet
If site of any lot size has hillside Tier II or steep slope topography
If site of any size has other significant natural features (forest, rock outcropping, wetland or water feature, etc.)

4) Add clear performance standards, change some special permits to authorizations, and add some certifications for site alteration and enlargement on formerly grandfathered lots
a) Change two special permits to authorizations so that staff and developers have more flexibility in site planning to preserve natural features. The special permits are:
(1) modification of yard, height and setback regulations, and parking location regulations and
(2) alteration of natural features (rock outcropping, steep slope in NA-2).

b) Allow in-ground swimming pools as-of-right if modification of topography at pool edge is no more than 2 feet up or down. This would apply to formerly grandfathered and vacant flat sites of any lot size, if no tree removal is required.

c) Performance standards – The Hillsides performance standards detailed above will provide clear guidelines to minimize effect of development on hillsides, steep slopes, trees and other vegetation. Specific performance standards will allow for more predictable review of applications, which will benefit the applicant-homeowner, the city, and the SNAD.

5) Improve the plant list used to identify natural features and select plants for landscaping. The existing SNAD plant list is broad and defines ecosystems, which is helpful for identifying certain natural features; however, it is too broad to meet the individual homeowner’s landscaping needs. The narrower plant list from the Hillsides District, which was designed with the home owner in mind, will be adopted for the SNAD. The existing broad plant list will remain a part of the SNAD.

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