Amenia weighs allowing two-family homes in suburban residential zone

AMENIA — Having heard some comment from residents uncomfortable with a change in zoning regulations to allow more than one family to occupy a home in a Suburban Residential (SR) zone, the Town Board continued discussion at its regular meeting on Thursday, May 16.

The Town Board had received a Housing Board request to forward the zone change proposal to the Planning Board for review.

Councilwoman Rosanna Hamm commented that the Planning Board has had many items on its agenda in recent months.

Housing Board chairman Charlie Miller reported that instances of more than one family in a home within SR zones already exist. As a result, those properties would fall into a category of being non-conforming to the zoning regulations.

Miller added that what is being considered is the possibility of allowing an apartment to be located within an existing home. He noted that residents’ concern about high-rise apartment structures is answered by an existing restriction limiting dwellings to two stories in height.

“It’s a really easy thing,” Miller said, adding that the comprehensive plan calls for creation of affordable housing.

“SR is the only district that does not allow for two-family homes,” Miller said.

Town Supervisor Leo Blackman favored the zoning change, indicating that SR zoning surrounds the hamlet.

Councilwoman Hamm commented that on any property adding occupants, water and septic need to be a consideration. She added her concern about expansion before the town has received the water engineers’ study results.

Councilman Paul Winters stressed the need for affordable housing, feeling that the zone change might provide housing opportunities for young workers and families.

“We have to decide to fix this problem,” Blackman said. “There are already homes broken into two units, and people don’t know it. The issue is not going away.”

“We need more people; we need more kids,” Winters agreed, adding about the change, “This will help us develop more housing closer to the center of town.”

Part-time building inspector

Answering a workload need for a part-time building inspector, the Town Board voted unanimously to direct the Town Clerk to advertise to fill the position.

Planning board

Two vacancies on the Amenia Planning Board were filled by action of the Town Board. To fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Matt Deister, resident Ken Topolsky was unanimously appointed to the term that will expire on Dec. 31, 2027.

The appointment of Jamie Vitiello to fill the unexpired term of Neil Kusnetz drew more debate and a divided vote. That term will expire Dec. 31, 2026. Vitello’s candidacy was brought forward for a vote after another resident received negative votes from councilmembers Brad Rebillard, Winters, and Nicole Ahearn, with scant discussion.

The votes to appoint Vitiello were cast by the same three council members, following discussion. Blackman and Hamm, in the minority, expressed concern about potential conflict of interest issues due to Vitiello’s association with Silo Ridge interests and the Silo Ridge development projects currently before the Planning Board.

Hamm noted that the timing of the appointment might not be the best, mindful of the multiple applications currently being considered by the Planning Board.

“It’s important to include Silo Ridge,” Winters said of openings in local government. “Jamie is the best choice.”

In a statement provided in the days following the meeting, Winters explained that his vote to seat Vitiello stems from a campaign promise where Winters said that he would assist in the effort to involve more residents in local government.

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