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Home > Leadership > Mayor > Archived Press Releases > 2016 Archives > Rich Products Supports The Opportunity Pledge > Green Code and Unified Development Ordinance

Green Code and Unified Development Ordinance


Today’s filing will lead to a final round of review to overhaul the City’s 63-year-old zoning rules

Buffalo, N.Y. – Mayor Byron W. Brown and the Buffalo Common Council today jointly filed a revised draft Green Code and Unified Development Ordinance which includes more than 100 revisions reflecting the tremendous amount of public input on the City of Buffalo’s blueprint for zoning and development in the 21st Century.

The Green Code is an historic update of the city’s 63-year-old zoning code and land use policies. It is one of the key components of Mayor Brown’s place-based economic development strategy aimed to further promote private and public sector investment, facilitate job creation, restore the environment and continue to improve Buffalo’s quality of life for residents. Over the past 10 months, a formal public review and comment period under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) took place to consider the Green Code’s environmental impacts. The document filed today includes over 100 of the public revisions which came out of those 20 public meetings and two public hearings.

“Our goal is to revolutionize the way Buffalo does business as we continue to build a city of opportunity for all Buffalo residents and a key component of that change was to listen to residents, neighborhood groups, businesses, and public and private institutions. Not only did we listen, we made substantial changes to the draft document based on the public’s suggestions and concerns, including the more than 230 public sessions dating back to 2010,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said. “We currently have over $5.6 billion in new economic development activity and job growth underway, and by overhauling our antiquated and cumbersome zoning codes, that number will absolutely increase. This document represents the best ideas, creates more modern development standards, and preserves and builds upon Buffalo’s strengths as a great 21st Century city that can compete head-to-head with any city in this country.”
Last year on October 22nd, Mayor Brown filed the Green Code with the Common Council. Since that time the Common Council, in conjunction with the Mayor's Office of Strategic Planning, conducted a series of public meetings and public hearings. The public hearings and written submissions generated hundreds of comments on the Green Code. Since May of this year, the Mayor's Office of Strategic Planning has been working with the Common Council on written responses to the public comment.
Today, a Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement was filed with the Common Council that includes the written responses to public comment. In addition, the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement includes proposed revisions to the Green Code's Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), a primary component of the Green Code and the component which received the most public comment.
“Working alongside the Common Council, the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning has been reviewing the multitude of public comments and written submissions to tailor this game-changing legislation to represent the vision of the community, while also being a functional document that will guide smart growth and development in Buffalo for many years to come,” said Brendan Mehaffy, executive director, Office of Strategic Planning. “The Buffalo Common Council dedicated countless hours to this process to ensure it is representative of their stakeholders’ needs, while also positioning Buffalo for a bright future.”

Key changes to the initial draft document gleaned from the public sessions include the following:
- In residential zones, new provisions restrict the size and density of multi-family projects.
- The maximum building height, applying to mixed-use commercial corridors like Elmwood Avenue, Grant Street, and High Street, is reduced from five stories to three stories.
• Five story buildings will be allowed only along commercial corridors like on Niagara, Main, and Delaware, which are served by high-quality public transit.
• In open space zones, the maximum building occupancy has been reduced from 25% of lot area to 10% of lot area.
This will greatly restrict the amount of land that can be developed on the Outer Harbor, with the vast majority of land being set aside for open space.
- New provisions create special development standards for Elmwood Village.
• The maximum size of a commercial establishment is reduced from 10,000 square feet to 3,500 square feet on the ground floor and 7,000 square feet overall.
• To control the community's concern about large-scale redevelopment, a new provision allows only up to two lots to be combined for new construction.
Standards for building materials are strengthened.
- McCarley Gardens is re-zoned to reinforce the current residential character of the neighborhood.
Over the next weeks, the Common Council will review the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement for completeness. When the Common Council accepts it as complete, the Unified Development Code and other Green Code documents will be reviewed by the City of Buffalo’s Planning Board and be subject to public hearings to be held by the Common Council. When those hearings close, the Code will be finalized by a Common Council vote.

“The revisions to the Green Code reflects the wishes of the community,” said Common Council President and Ellicott District Council Member Darius Pridgen. “I am pleased with the extremely high level of public participation and the commitment of all parties involved to produce a zoning code that reflects the desires of community members.”
“Following months of public comments and the numerous Common Council public meetings and hearings, we are releasing a revised Green Code that shows we listened to the concerns of the residents that commented and have a better product because of the engagement of the public. But there is still work to be done before Green Code becomes law and there will be public sessions to obtain additional resident input. I look forward to hearing from our residents on these issues as we enter the final stage and working with my colleagues to create a land use plan and zoning laws that best serve our city,” said Common Council Majority Leader David A. Rivera.

“The level of transparency set by the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and the Buffalo Common Council led to the revisions to the Green Code being reflective of what residents have been advocating for,” said Buffalo Common Council President Pro Tempore Christopher P. Scanlon. “As a result, the City of Buffalo’s new zoning code will reflect the desires of the community as a whole. “

“Since the Green Code was introduced last year my office has held public forums, attended community and block club meetings to get as much input as possible from stakeholders,” said Delaware District Councilmember Joel P. Feroleto. “Revisions to the Green Code reflect what residents have been advocating for. This has been a collaborative process with the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and I am pleased with the commitment of all parties involved to produce a zoning code that reflects the desires of community members.”

"Urged by concerned citizens, Mayor Brown, along with several visionary Common Council Members, saw the importance of reforming Buffalo's broken development system—over 1,800 pages of confusing, contradictory legalese that hadn't been materially updated since 1953. The Buffalo Green Code is the product of over six years of effort, a refreshingly honest and sometimes contentious collaboration between citizens and City Hall. This reform is long overdue. Buffalo’s old zoning code, a product of the 1950s, was designed to suburbanize the city, making most of the city's compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods illegal. For decades, it has been too difficult for the city to build the kind of development the people of Buffalo have consistently stated they want, to preserve and enhance the kind of neighborhoods that make Buffalo the great place it is,” said Chuck Banas, Chuck Banas Design. “The Green Code is a great leap forward for Buffalo, only the third city in the nation to undertake such comprehensive reform. The new code is a compelling hallmark of the New Buffalo, honoring Buffalo's renowned historic legacy while helping to make our city competitive in the 21st century."

"Perhaps nothing has done more damage to the character of Buffalo, its small businesses, and its building stock than the intolerably dated 1953 zoning code. For generations, it has forced anyone who would build a new home or business, or to expand a business or institution, to knock down and pave over more of the city than anyone would need or want. This has steadily eroded the character and viability of our neighborhoods and business districts for longer than most of us have been alive. The Green Code rectifies that mistake. Now, we can have buildings and businesses again, instead of paving. Housing instead of paving. Public space instead of paving. People instead of paving. Green instead of gray,” said Tim Tielman, Executive Director, Campaign for Greater Buffalo, History & Culture.

The Green Code will be available at, the Office of the City Clerk at Buffalo City Hall (#1302) and all Buffalo Public Library locations.