10/9/23 - How to Pay Lip Service to Density Pt. 1

I'm going to get right into it: one of the most galling things of the new zoning is how it purports to allow additional density in residential zones, as strongly supported in Rochester 2034, but then uses the zoning equivalent of fine print to allow no such thing. A great deal of words have been spilled over the increased area of Medium Density Residential (MDR) and High Density Residential (HDR) zones vis-a-vis a comparable reduction in Low Density Residential (LDR) zones. This purportedly allows more density.

The briefest read of the code would tell you that 1-4 family homes are now allowed of-right in MDR and HDR districts with no minimum lot sizes. This is, on its face, a big change from the current zoning code, where 2-family homes are allowed of-right in R-2 (MDR), but only on a minimum lot size of 6,000sf (where most lots in the city are 4,000sf). R-3 (HDR) is too complicated with regard to lot sizes to describe here, but please trust me when I say that it has them, and they're not exactly small.

At this point, one might think, problem solved and we can all move on with our lives - density:allowed. Except it's not that easy. For reasons that are not enumerated, the ZAP does a number of things that create serious drag on actually adding any density. 

Now to bury the lead - the remainder of this article is going to list all of the little bits and bobs that will make density difficult to achieve. Part 2 is going to look at a couple lots in the city and show real world examples of what is (and is not) achievable. Part 3 is going to cover how we think the code could better encourage residential density; the stated preference of the comp plan.

Because of the split nature of this article, the list of of issues here will not cover any proposed fixes to the code. And I'm sorry in advance that for some of them, the fix will be immediately obvious. To help working through the code on your own, this list is in chronological order of the first appearance of the issue.