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Oswego leaders look to modernize city's zoning code

Payne Horning
Oswego officials want to modernize their zoning code to spur growth in the Port City.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow is leading an effort to update the city's zoning code. He says the current system is antiquated and redundant. So Barlow is asking the council to spend $105,000 for a Syracuse-based law firm to rewrite the code, making it more business friendly.

Oswego Common Council President Eric VanBuren says this overhaul has been on his to do list for awhile and now is the perfect time to get it done.

"With all of this potential development on the horizon, we want to make sure people understand these are the things we are expecting," VanBuren said. "The document provides continuity and a streamlined process for developers."

VanBuren says New York state is also encouraging the city to rewrite the zoning code because of of the grant money flowing into Oswego, like the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award it won last year.

"The state in a roundabout way let us know very bluntly that we need to update our zoning document with all of these grants and development money coming into the city that we need to make this a priority and I’m happy to oblige because I wanted to get this done anyway, but it helped us put together a plan now."

VanBuren says state officials are concerned the outdated code makes the city vulnerable to lawsuits, like the one filed by residents several years ago. They were upset with the common council's decision at the time to change a zone in order to accommodate a Holiday Inn Express Hotel. Both that lawsuit and the council's later attempt to overhaul the zoning code went nowhere. VanBuren says there was a lack of commitment to the project, so it never got off of the ground.

"Luckily we didn’t start anything," he said. "There weren’t any invoices, we weren’t left with any half-product that we couldn’t use. Unfortunately, it did end. So kind of working with it through the years, now we’ve gotten to the point we’re ready to do an aggressive overhaul of the zoning code."

The council is expected to vote on the matter next week. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.