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Syracuse Common Councilors formally adopt zoning ordinance overhaul

A multi-colored map of the city of syracuse shows different zoning designations.
City of Syracuse
This revised Syracuse zoning map was released in March 2023, and was the one ultimately approved by common councilors.

The City of Syracuse has its first completely new land use plan in more than five decades. Syracuse common councilors Friday unanimously approved an overhaul of the city’s zoning ordinance, which was nearly eight years in the making. Councilor Jimmy Monto told those gathered in the chamber before the vote that the update is sorely needed.

“We will be the first upstate city to require an affordable housing component for large developments," Monto said. "In a city with a tax base that cannot sustain us and in a city with a disgustingly high concentration of poverty and segregation, our zoning ordinance has laid stagnant for 56 years. Today, we will make a leap forward towards a more inclusive city a better quality of life for our residents and a city that will hopefully be ready to meet the challenges of much needed population growth.”

Much of that growth is anticipated to come from Micron.

Councilors originally tried to vote at their Tuesday meeting, but an objection by councilor Jennifer Schultz delayed it until Friday. She still has concerns about property on Lafayette Road that was rezoned from single unit residential to medium density residential. Schultz even proposed an amendment to keep the original zoning, but none of her colleagues supported it.

“I think it was loud and clear at the public hearing we had for Rezone that there was a significant group of people that felt that they were not being heard, but felt that what they were told was then switched at the last minute," Schultz said. "So I tried to gain clarity on that for them, I tried to get a meeting. And that's why I proposed this amendment today.”

Schultz and residents worry that the medium density zoning of the area could change the quiet nature of the impacted neighborhoods. Other councilors have said that Rezone is a living document, and can be changed.

Meanwhile, the New York Civil Liberties Union says Rezone repeats the city’s history of segregation and gentrification of vulnerable communities. In a release, Director of the Environmental Justice Project Lanessa Chaplin says developers are now emboldened to price out a marginalized community.

"Syracuse has some of the most segregated housing in the nation. Passing this plan is not only a setback for housing accessibility, but it is an affront to the City’s predominantly low-income Black and Brown families under direct threat of displacement," Chaplin said. "Today, Syracuse lawmakers have sent a chilling message to its Black and Brown residents: that developers’ interests are more important than those who endured the fallout from the racist decisions of the past."

The last time Syracuse undertook such a comprehensive rezoning was during the administration of Mayor Ben Walsh's grandfather in the late 1960's. Even so, much of the city's zoning ordinance dated back about a century.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at