Tanya Marione from the Jersey City Planning Department has been working on a plan to change R1 zoning to R5 zoning in downtown JC. If you're wondering what zone you currently live in, see the map below. The necessity to fix the zoning is that the Village area is the last frontier of downtown and since not many developers come in and want to build 3 story houses, the zoning department is constantly being asked for variances for lots in R-1 zoning.
This R1 zoning also makes up a healthy portion of the Hamilton Park neighborhood which why the we've invited Tanya to our 3/2 meeting to discuss it.
R1 zoning is one and two family housing with a max height of 3 stories and 1:1 parking.
R5 zoning would be max 4 stories - 45 ft (plus some if in a flood zone), 80 units an acre, with .5 parking. The draft wording can be seen here: 2016.02.25 R-5 PB Version.pdf
Tanya has worked on this for two years. Case law as early as the 1950s gives a lot of weight to the reconsideration and re-examination of existing zoning. For example, if the zoning board grants a bunch of the same use or height variances – they are abusing the point of variance relief, because they zone by ordinance/law and not by variance. Zoning by variance is essentially the wild west – there’s no master plan or common purpose.
She has provided us with the annual report from the previous year. Including density and height analysis done for each block and lot within the R-1 district downtown along with a plethora of other data she has collected.
2014 and 2015 Zoning Board Annual Report.pdf
2012 and 2013 Zoning Board Annual Report.docx
2015 The Village Zoning Table E.pdf
2015 village north analysis.xlsx
As Tanya puts it, in the 1970s many areas, specifically downtown, were zoned as low density strictly residential. That was never the reality, and the new zoning, only to be solidified in 2000 with the new master plan – created buildings that are very out of character with the historic nature of the area. Three story buildings, with 2 families and a garage is the outlier, not the standard for R-1 downtown. The R-5 zoning matches the existing density of the current neighborhood but provides more square footage. It also has green infrastructure requirements built into it.
For some interesting background reference – the zoning from 1957, the one that would be most representative of what’s existing (except for maybe the more historic districts), was that the height was regulated by the width of the street. So the street front of your building could only be as high as the width and ½ of your street. Using that rule was partially how Tanya came about the 45 ft, because she went through and used google earth to measure street widths – even in the 30s and 50s, 45 ft would have been permitted. The law then specified that every ft after 45 ft had to be setback.