Council tables tweaks to zoning code to hear from public

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The Common Council tabled some tweaks to the city’s zoning code in its meeting last week, and will hear public input before voting on the changes in its next session.

Councilors set a public hearing for 6:50 p.m. on April 10 in the council chambers at City Hall, 198 N. Washington St.

The proposed changes would modify zoning on Griffiss. A portion of the park just southeast of Rome Free Academy near Wright Drive would be expanded and would be rezoned to allow more diverse development.

Presently the “High Technology Corporate Development,” new legislation would rename the zone “Skyline Gateway” and allow freight terminals, warehouses, and healthcare facilities to be built and operated in the area to allow “flexibility of development.”

Chief Codes Enforcement Officer Mark Domenico said Monday the changes are “to make way for some potential development options” for Griffiss’s southern end.

Other codes modifications tabled by the council on Wednesday deal with the use of shipping containers and tractor trailers as outdoor storage units. Presently, there is no code prohibiting or otherwise guiding this use.

“The city has received numerous complaints over the years with individuals pulling in tractor trailer bodies and shipping containers and utilizing them for long-term storage needs. This is a section of the code which addresses that in all of the districts,” Domenico explained.

“There is an exception ... It recognizes industrial zones and also businesses that are in the business of shipping and receiving ... They’re afforded some exemptions from this,” he added.

The new codes allow the use of shipping containers anywhere in the city without a permit, provided they’re used for “loading and unloading” and are removed in 14 days. Any period of use longer than that needs Zoning Board of Appeals approval.

The containers can’t be stacked or lived in, and must be placed on paved surfaces.

Further changes prohibit the use of tractor trailers as permanent storage, and limits temporary on-site storage of tractor trailers in Commercial District lots at five days.

Trucks being temporarily stored under that provision must be on a paved surface and must be 20 feet “from any lot line.”

Councilors also approved an updated sexual harassment policy for city employees and contractors, following a state requirement for employers rolled out last year.

The new policies define sexual harassment more clearly and create a formal reporting and investigating processes for complaints. The existing city codes on the issues were written in 1994 and last updated in 2000.

Councilor John B. Mortise, R-2, said the topic was “something that hasn’t been looked over or gone through in a while.”

“This was a long process ... to try to stiffen them up,” Mortise said of previous policy.

He continued: “Sexual harassment — any harassment — should not be tolerated at all in this city, so again, this is something that was forgotten about, it was brought to our attention, and now went over it and a have a policy — a better policy.”

The council voted to pass a $294,000 bond measure for three new Department of Public Works vehicles as well.

Two six-wheel dump trucks from 2002 and 2003 and one mini dump truck from 2003 will be replaced, City Treasurer David Nolan has said.

Also approved by councilors last week:

A resolution affirming that the bonding measure will not have a “significant effect on the environment.”

A resolution authorizing city Purchasing Agent Zach Cortese to attend a conference in Albany ($100 plus mileage and tolls).

A resolution designating the council as the lead agency on an environmental review of the codes changes, per state law.

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