WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Does the new year mean new zoning laws for the City of Watertown?

The City of Watertown’s Planning Department is currently in its review phase for a proposed zoning ordinance.

This draft was first proposed in August 2022 and was created after the City received feedback regarding the zoning process.

City Senior Planner Jennifer Voss said that these zoning laws have remained unchanged since 1959, and said zoning laws were dated.

“The City finalized its comprehensive plan in 2019, and this zoning map and zoning district were based on the land use plan that was created as a part of that,” Voss said.

Simplifications are being made, Voss shared, to accompany new businesses and modernize zoning laws.

“The allowed uses are more modernized,” she said. “We’ve gotten rid of some of the things that don’t exist anymore. We’ve made the lot sizes and parking lots more aligned with what businesses need today. So we’re really hoping that it makes it easier to do business in the city.”

According to the Planning Department, codes focus more on a building’s form instead of a structure’s use.

This is “so that it feels more in line with buildings in the area,” Voss explained.

The draft contains a “use table” for new businesses or organizations to follow. This table explains where certain industries are permitted within its ten proposed districts.

These districts include residential, neighborhood mixed-use, urban mixed-use, commercial, downtown, planned campus, industrial, parks and open space, waterfront overlay and city center overlay.

The draft also contains only one residential district versus districts containing only single- or multi-family residences.

“Once you look at our neighborhoods, once you walk around and look, there really isn’t that big of a difference,” Voss further added. “So we realized there wasn’t really a reason to have more than one residential district.”

Ultimately all of Watertown’s current district labeling would change under this plan. But Community Development Director Michael Lumbis said, not much would change.

“There’s a lot of similarities,” Lumbis stated. “The residential district, that won’t change. The neighborhood mixed-use, that will be very similar to our neighborhood business district. A lot of it will be the same.”

The drafted zoning ordinance can be found on the City of Watertown’s website.