Hearing Dec. 17 on tweaks to amortization law

UPDATE: The hearing’s off. Since the city’s lawyers are concerned Monday’s meeting wasn’t rescheduled legally, they’re going to have to re-vote on everything they voted on on Dec. 2 on the 17th, which includes re-voting to set the hearing and on the pay raises for the aldermen. I’ll post a story here in a bit.

The City of Middletown will be holding a public hearing on Dec. 17 on a proposal to exempt mixed-use commercial and residential buildings from the amortization law.

The amendment would exempt a handful of existing buildings with stores on the first floor and apartments above from the amortization law. However, it was primarily meant to allay the fears of investors about future zoning changes, said Mayor Joe DeStefano. He said bankers were worried that a building that is in a commercial zone now could, in the future, end up in a residential one — and thus subject to the law — by zoning changes.

“This would prevent any concern by any financial institutions or any investor into buying a mixed-use property,” DeStefano said.

The law was originally passed in 2009, and would have phased out three-family or more buildings in most of the city’s residential zones (not downtown, though) by 2014. However, a court struck it down in 2013, saying the city should’ve notified the Orange County Planning Department before passing the law. The city is trying to re-pass the law now, and held a public hearing in August.

The Planning Department has expressed concerns about the law, saying it might reduce access to housing for low-income families, and recommended the city put the brakes on the law until finishing a downtown rezoning plan.

DeStefano disagrees pretty strongly with these recommendations, and said he wants push ahead with the law regardless. This means they’ll need six votes on the Council, rather than a usual majority of five, to override the county’s recommendation.

About 140 buildings will be affected by the amortization law. Its supporters say it will address quality-of-life issues associated with multifamily buildings.

The hearing will be a little after 8 p.m. in the Common Council chambers, City Hall, second floor. After the hearing, the Council will still have to vote to re-pass the law.

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