Red Hook & Tivoli: Intermunicipal Task Force - LULA Case Study

LULA Case Studies


Red Hook & Tivoli: Intermunicipal Task Force

2009 Groundbreaker Award Recipient

The Town of Red Hook is an excellent example of how the Land Use Leadership Alliance Program has helped local communities achieve their long-term planning needs. Located in Dutchess County, New York, Red Hook is a rural community that is comprised of three municipalities: the Town of Red Hook, the Village of Red Hook, and the Village of Tivoli.

In 2004, land use leaders from each of these municipalities attended the LULA training program in an effort to enhance their abilities to work together in order to achieve the strategic land use goals of their community. After their graduation from the LULA program in 2004, these land use leaders established an Intermunicipal Task Force in order to implement the innovative planning techniques taught at LULA training. By using the LULA program’s collaborative decision making techniques and smart growth strategies, the Task Force has created a Centers and Greenspaces Plan, which is designed “to protect the rural character [of the township], reinforce traditional village centers, and promote economic development.”

The Effectiveness of Using Collaborative Decision Making Techniques

The most fundamental aspect of LULA training is an emphasis on establishing collaborative decision making techniques. Even the most progressive and goal oriented communities can find themselves at a land use planning impasse if community-wide consensus cannot be reached. Prior to LULA training, Red Hook’s agricultural and open space community had already helped the Town of Red Hook adopt a Comprehensive Plan that states that “Red Hook should maintain its rural character by providing incentives for new development to locate within or adjacent to existing centers while discouraging a land use pattern that uniformly disperses development throughout the Town.” Based on this plan both a Working Group and a Conservation Advisory Committee were active within the township in attempting to preserve Red Hook’s character and strategically plan for the future. However, like most other communities, Red Hook’s land use leaders were unable to establish meaningful dialogue between the town’s stakeholders that would allow them to bridge the gap between planning and implementation.

The LULA training program’s methodology is designed to help bridge this gap by promoting collaboration amongst stakeholders throughout the land use planning process. By establishing an Intermunicipal Task Force, Red Hook’s land use leaders have embraced this methodology, enabling the town’s three municipalities to work together in order to achieve their community-wide goals. This collaborative effort has focused on the willingness to resolve differences between the municipalities by promoting public participation throughout the planning process. In keeping with the goals of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, and through a series of community outreach programs, the Task Force has been able to refine the Centers and Greenspaces Plan by bringing together diverse stakeholders from the town and villages of Red Hook and Tivoli.

By drawing on the combined cooperation of all of the Township’s stakeholders, the Centers and Greenspaces Plan is intended to “permanently protect important farmlands and the rural countryside, strengthen the residential and commercial base of the existing villages, transform the South Broadway strip into a traditional village entrance-extension, and use close-in smart growth development to help finance sewer systems.”

Using Advanced Land Use Tools to Promote Smart Growth

One of the great benefits of the LULA training program is that collaborative techniques are learned through the understanding how various advanced land use tools work. A key aspect in implementing these land use tools is identifying the smart growth goals of the community. Prior to LULA training Red Hook’s land use leaders already had an understanding of what their smart growth goals were, they just needed to gain the tools to make those goals a reality.

By utilizing the advanced land use tools taught through the LULA training program, the Task Force’s Centers and Greenspaces Plan proposes a series of smart growth techniques that will help Red Hook’s community achieve their planning goals in specific ways.  A series of proposed zoning amendments will add an Agricultural Business (AB) District and Traditional Neighborhood District (TND) to the  community.

The Agricultural Business District
The purpose of the Agricultural Business District is to protect agricultural lands, encourage harmonious land uses, and to promote the economic vitality of local agriculture.  Zoning for Agriculture minimizes conflicts with neighboring non-farming residence and maintains individual farms within a larger mass of farmlands.  Often, the existence of farmlands in mass is critical to the economic vitality of farms and their related businesses. Also, existence of the AB District will permit farmers greater business opportunities. Site plans for farmer’s markets, wineries, cider mills, bed and breakfasts, and harvest festivals are only some examples of permitted uses of lands in the AB district that may go through a streamlined review process.  Provisions for farm labor housing has been added as well as other new uses of land within the AB District that are allowed by special permit such as accessory apartments within existing single family dwellings or new single-family dwellings and through adaptive reuse of non-dwelling structures.  Also allowed in the AB District by special permit are home occupations, hunting and fishing clubs, outdoor recreation facilities, and animal hospitals.

Farmers can elect to conserve their agricultural lands by choosing to participate in the Town’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program which allows landowners to sell development rights at the current zoning rate.  Or farmers can participate in the community preservation (greenspace) fund, or incentive zoning program while retaining the right to develop some new homes in a farmstead complex without the need to subdivide.  Alternatively, farmers could develop their land using conservation subdivision design that minimizes the impacts on other farms in the area, by a four step process that identifies unbuildable lands and special features, and then designs development around them to preserve green spaces.

Combined with incentive zoning for conservation, the new Agricultural Business District has many benefits.  It is well said that ““cows don’t go to school” and well established that farming  contributes more to the local tax base than it requires in services, unlike most new residential development.  The Centers and Greenspaces Plan will result in residential development being directed to existing centers where services (like schools and firehouses) and infrastructure (like sewers and power generation) can be provided more efficiently.  Also, promotion of residential development near existing centers will stimulate commercial development in these areas and can finance necessary infrastructure.

The Traditional Neighborhood District
Within the TND are 3 subdistricts: the Residential Neighborhood subdistrict, the Commercial Center subdistrict, and the Office-Industrial subdistrict.  The proposed subdivision amendments contain provisions for the conservation of open space and natural resources, and add a section on incentive zoning.

The TND provides for walkable mix-used neighborhoods similar to the existing local villages, but offers more of a variety in housing choices.  New streets in the district will be designed to look like an “outdoor room, making it a pleasant place to walk,” according to the Centers and Greenspaces Report.  The TND will decrease the negative effects of traffic caused by new development, and many new residents in the district will live within a ten minute walk of shops and services.  To preserve the Town’s scenic southern gateway, the Office-Industrial subdistrict will be designed with a required setback.

In the Residential Neighborhood subdistrict, developers can increase building potential per acre by purchasing development rights from farmers, or by contributing to a dedicated greenspace fund which will go to the purchasing of the development rights of agricultural lands.  This legal technique is called incentive zoning, and can be accomplished at no direct cost to local tax-paying residents.  Also, Convenience stores, automobile service facilities, inns, restaurants, telecommunications towers, and sawmills are just some of the uses allowed in the AB District by special permit.