Transit-Oriented Development Under Attack In New York Suburbs?

Stamford, Conn. is considering changes to zoning that would reduce density and increase mandatory parking.

Glenbrook and Springdale are along the Metro-North New Canaan branch.
Glenbrook and Springdale are along the Metro-North New Canaan branch.

This isn’t transit-oriented development. It’s the opposite of transit-oriented development.

The city of Stamford in New York’s northern suburbs will consider a zoning change that would reduce densities and increase mandatory parking minimums in two neighborhoods next to the Metro-North’s New Canaan Branch — a move that opponents fear would lead to less rail-friendly projects.

The proposal [PDF] for the mini-towns of Glenbrook and Springdale does not mention transit as a goal, but instead touts that it would “protect single-family neighborhoods, improve urban design, lower densities [and] increase parking.”

Both neighborhoods were rezoned about a decade ago with help from the Regional Plan Association to support more development along the Metro-North trunk line. The main result would be reduced density — by one-third — and mandatory parking rising from the current one-and-a-half spaces per two-bedroom apartment to two spaces per two-bedroom apartment.

Studies show that the availability of parking greatly increases the likelihood that residents will have their own cars — even though both Glenbrook and Springdale were built next to commuter rail stations.

On the plus side, the rezoning calls for a slight increase in below-market-rate housing in new developments.

“The city is doing this trying to make these communities more ‘transit and pedestrian friendly,'” a Stamford resident told Streetsblog on Monday. “Clearly, these proposed changes do the opposite of that. As someone who cares about cities and urban design, I am disheartened about this.”

The zoning board will take up the matter on Monday night at 8:15 p.m.

  • Joe R.

    My random thought for the day is how would the current conservative Supreme Court rule on mandatory parking minimums? I put the odds in favor of ruling against them, which is why it would be nice if someone challenging parking minimums took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. In one stroke of a pen, parking minimums in the entire country could disappear.

  • HamTech87

    Since when are principles invoked when it comes to parking? Interesting comment, but consider me doubtful.

  • HamTech87

    The two MetroNorth governors could push munis to create TOD zones around their stations, using service as leverage.

  • Joe R.

    I’m just thinking how the sides would argue the case. Developers could say it’s unjustified interference in the free market. Not sure what the other side would say beyond nonsense like lack of parking minimums could mean you can’t find a parking spot. As far as I know, there are no constitutional guarantees for car storage. It would really be a stretch for any Supreme Court to uphold parking minimums, let alone a conservative one.

  • Gersh Kuntzman

    But many developers secretly like the mandate because they ultimately are complicit in the car-industrial complex, no?

  • Joe R.

    I tend to think developers are neutral. They just see it as another cost of doing business which they have no control over. The only positive for them might be using it as justification for building only luxury housing. They’ll say parking minimums keep them from building profitable affordable housing, not that they would build any even without parking minimums. Nevertheless, I’d love to see parking minimums go before the Supreme Court. There’s no downside for us. If it rules against them, it’s a win for livable streets advocates. If they don’t, it’s pretty much just retaining the status quo, meaning we’re back to fighting localities to repeal parking mandates.

  • MWaring

    In terms of parking… Most Developers only want to build what they think the Market Demands of them. I’m not sure I would say they are “complicit in the car-industrial complex” as much as I would say that many just have a windshield perspective.

  • Joe R.

    Yes. If you’re part of the class which drives everywhere, as I’m sure most developers are, then from your perspective it looks like you need parking everywhere. In their minds they may not consider parking minimums worth fighting because they think most potential buyers see parking as a perk. That may well be true, at least up until the point these people realize they’re easily paying a few hundred more per month to cover the costs of those parking spots, whether or not the developer is actually charging extra for the parking.

    One way around this is to unbundle the cost of parking and rent. If developers legally had to charge what it actually costs them to build the parking spots separately from the rent, my guess is potential buyers would start saying they want lower rents, not “free” parking, which of course is anything but free.


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