Today’s news:

Community facilities best in residential areas: City

The city’s zoning laws give wide latitude to community facility groups in terms of where they can build. The law states that community facilities “can perform their activities more effectively in a residential environment, unaffected by objectionable influences from adjacent industrial ... uses.”

But critics contend the notion that community facilities are better suited to residential areas is outdated.

There is no hard and fast definition of a “community facility” in the city’s 1961 zoning resolution and no simple rules that govern all of them. Most, if not all, community facilities are considered “as-of-right,” which allows the organization to construct buildings in residential areas without first notifying the community and without any community approvals or review.

Community facility groups are also permitted, under the city’s zoning laws, to build larger structures on residential plots than a typical homeowner.

The zoning code lists the types of groups which are usually considered to be “community facilities” and therefore permitted to build “as-of-right” in residential areas, including:

• churches, rectories, parish houses

• colleges, universities, schools

• hospitals

• nursing homes

•medical offices, health-related facilities such as drug rehabilitation clinics

• housing for staff of non-profit hospitals

• libraries

• museums, non-commercial art galleries

• community centers

• non-profit or philanthropic institutions whose facilities do not include sleeping accommodations

• welfare centers

• cemeteries

• golf courses

• parks, playgrounds

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