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Section 4 - Scenic Conservation Strategies - A Toolbox

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Section 4 scenic conservationstrategies

  1. 1. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES 4.1 INTRODUCTION TO THE TOOLBOX The purpose of this section is to provide a toolbox of specific strategies that address the issues and opportunities identified while inventorying and assessing the Byway landscape. These strategies range greatly in scope and scale, anywhere from building siting to color selection. Some of these strategies may be mandated or incentivized, as addressed in Section 4.9 Regulatory Assessment Techniques and Options. Whenever possible, local success stories have been included as specific examples of these strategies used in practice. 4-1
  2. 2. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2 SITE DESIGN AND LAYOUT 4.2.1 Landscape Integration One of the best ways to limit the aesthetic and environmental impact of development is to integrate buildings into the landscape. Structures that are built near the base of a slope, below a ridge, or along or within the edge of a wooded area fit more cohesively within the landscape, rather than standing out and interrupting scenic viewsheds. Avoid placing structures in the middle of large open meadows if alternatives exist. Building in this manner allows structures to blend in with the existing character of the Mohawk Towpath Byway. Building along forested edges or hedgerows also allows the preservation of open space and greatly reduces the visual presence of structures. Choosing appropriate colors and materials further reduces the visual impact. Strategy to Avoid Large open fields with hedgerows or a forested edge are commonly found within the rural areas of the Mohawk Towpath Byway. Recommended Strategy Place buildings at the base of a slope and along wooded edges to minimize their presence in the landscape. 4-2
  3. 3. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES An aerial view of this subdivision just off the mid section of the Byway shows a compact community of individual homes built on small lots. The developer maintained open spaces with a large green buffer, pockets of meadows, and forested slopes, and incorporated a paved bike trail. The individual homes recede into the sloped landscape, leaving open areas within the community. 4-3
  4. 4. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2.2 CLUSTER DEVELOPMENT Cluster development is an alternative to conventional development, which typically divides parcels of land into equal large lots leaving little or no open space. Clustering, on the other hand, groups structures on a smaller portion of the available land, reserving a significant amount of the site as protected open space. Clustering allows the existing landscape aesthetic of open fields, forest or shoreline to be maintained, while promoting cost effective and energy efficient development. Applied in urban areas, clustering development often emphasizes site design flexibility for protecting constrained areas, and important site features for allowing more creative design. Cluster provisions in rural areas may focus more on conserving resource lands, and securing larger expanses of open space consistent with rural character. Strategy to Avoid Conventional development patterns consume all available land in order to maximize the lot to be subdivided. Recommended Strategy Cluster development allows structures to be built closer together while conserving larger areas of open space for habitat, farming, parks, playgrounds, trails, or other open space use. 4-4
  5. 5. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES 1. Olde Nott Farm Throughout the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway there are a number of good examples of cluster developments. Olde Nott Farm, located just east of the hamlet of Rexford, is one of these. The layout incorporates close clusters of homes that leave areas for large adjacent open spaces within the project. The open spaces are designed to flow in and out of the surrounding forested land and the project, blending the two together. 2. Hummingbird Court The town of Niskayuna worked in partnership with a developer on an under-utilized and sensitive parcel adjacent to a bird sanctuary. The process produced a final design that incorporated a high density cluster, trail connections to the sanctuary, and dedicated acreage to increase the overall size of the sanctuary. 3. Fieldstone Estates Fieldstone Estates is located in the Town of Niskayuna. It is a 100-acre parcel with a design and layout that left over 72 acres dedicated to open space. Fifty-four single family homes and 47 townhomes are planned. The residents can enjoy over a mile of natural walking trails with pedestrian boardwalks at wetland crossings. 1 2 1 3 4-5
  6. 6. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2.3 LIMIT VISIBLE BUILDING FAÇADE A simple way to reduce the visual impact of development is by orienting buildings in a manner that reduces their visual presence. This can be achieved by placing buildings so that their long sides are perpendicular to the road or riverfront. In typical land use patterns, buildings are commonly oriented with the wide façade toward the road. By orienting buildings so that the short side is toward the road, the amount of structure or mass that a passerby sees is greatly reduced. By combining this practice with others such as “Landscape Integration,” the visual impact on otherwise open or scenic landscapes can be further reduced. Note that buildings should have a “friendly face” oriented toward the road, preferably with an entry, porch and/or windows. Strategy to Avoid This building has its long side oriented toward the road and is sited in the middle of the lot. This results in the structure disrupting view corridors and dominating a formerly open landscape. Recommended Strategy Built along a natural vegetated edge with the narrow, or gabled, end of the building facing the road, this building has less visual presence to the passersby. 4-6
  7. 7. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-7
  8. 8. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2.4 LIMIT VISIBLE PARKING In typical commercial development, parking is usually placed in the most visible location – along the road directly in front of the building. Vehicular access is the priority, and curb cuts are as wide as the parking lots, creating an unsightly “sea” of asphalt. Alternative site designs promote parking areas that are located along the side or rear of buildings, with more of the area devoted to pedestrian amenities, signage and landscaping. This approach minimizes the visual impact of the parking and storage areas, while promoting better visibility for the building or business. By combining this practice with others such as “Orientation,” the visual impact of the development can be further reduced. Strategy to Avoid In the typical parking arrangement, the pavement abuts the road with no amenities for pedestrian circulation, signage, or landscaping. The asphalt parking and large building dominate the view. Recommended Strategy Parking is situated off to the side of the building with storage at the back. Sidewalks provide safe pedestrian access while the orientation of the building limits its visual presence. 4-8
  9. 9. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES Little Italy, Schenectady Two restaurants below are relocated to Schenectady’s “Little Italy” on North Jay Street almost 15 years ago, moving into what used to be a retail shop. The adaptive reuse of a retail space also provided an opportunity to improve the streetscape with trees at curbside. Ample parking is in the rear of the property. Maturing trees in the rear separate the neighborhood from the major passenger and freight rail line also to the rear of the building. 4-9
  10. 10. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2.5 BUFFER INCOMPATIBLE USES Where incompatible uses exist adjacent to one another, wider buffers of woodland should be preserved or planted to provide an effective screen that allows the different uses to coexist. Providing recreational opportunities within the buffer, such as connecting trails, wetland mitigation, or wildlife habitat, adds additional community resource. Vegetative mixtures of coniferous, broadleaf, and understory plants are the most effective landscape buffers between disparate land uses, such as between commercial and residential uses, or agricultural and residential uses. Through a mix of different species, and range in heights of plants, the vegetation effectively screens light, noise and traffic between the two uses by providing a substantial, physical delineation. These landscape screens can be incorporated into a site plan either by preserving existing forest on site, augmenting existing hedgerows, or by planting areas with a mix of forest species. Strategy to Avoid Without a buffer in place, the negative effects of incompatible uses (light spill, noise, traffic and overall visual quality) will impact adjacent properties and land uses. Recommended Strategy Preserving or planting a vegetative buffer will effectively screen incompatible uses and allow them to coexist. 4-10
  11. 11. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-11
  12. 12. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2.6 INFILL DEVELOPMENT Infill development is the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels in otherwise built-up areas where infrastructure is already in place. Infill in areas that have already been developed is one of the best tools to prevent sprawl outside of cities and village centers, which in turn protects the historic and scenic character of the Byway. It also infuses new capital investment and vitality. Infill development puts new buildings on vacant lots surrounded by development, or rehabilitated buildings on sites where buildings are abandoned, contaminated, or in disrepair. Many Village Mixed-Use, Highway Commercial, and Residential areas along the Byway offer opportunities for infill development. The key to successful infill is to respect the site context and to follow historic or pre-existing development patterns. This may include building setbacks, circulation patterns, scale, and massing. Consolidated parking and increased pedestrian-scale elements, such as lighting, trees, and landscaping, can further enhance the character of the Byway. Existing Condition Vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and unconsolidated parking offer opportunities for infill. Recommended Strategy Fill vacant and under-used lots in developed areas with contextuallyappropriate buildings. 4-12
  13. 13. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES Vischer Ferry Historic District Located along the Mohawk Towpath Byway is the Vischer Ferry Historic District. Within this dedicated space there is an example of a 1980’s infill subdivision that was designed to fit within the context of the important historic district. A screen of mature trees separates the PUD from Vischer Ferry Road and retains the historic character. Location #2 delineated in the aerial photograph is a utility building that has the shape of what might have been a century old building. Location #3 is a house constructed in the early 2000s where the owners were provided with three suggested architectural plans that might fit the character of the community. The owners picked one of the three. Location “A” in the upper picture is the location of the photographer that took the picture below. 4-13
  14. 14. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2.7 COMPATIBLE DESIGN The architecture of the Mohawk Towpath Byway contributes substantially to the area’s visual character and quality. From the notable settlement of Vischer Ferry, to the historic village of Waterford, to the celebrated industrial forms of Cohoes, there are numerous architectural assets throughout the region that should be preserved and enhanced. Future development needs to complement the existing patterns and designs. The elements of scale, massing, and detail can be used to plan new buildings in such a way that melds them effectively with the existing architecture of the Byway’s towns and villages. Practice to Avoid Commercial box-type architecture, often found lining highways, lacks character and detracts from the aesthetic that exists along the Byway. Recommended Practice Commercial buildings should borrow from the existing Byway context. In this example, a commercial building that borrows from the existing industrial patterns of the region would suit the historic landscape. Practice to Avoid Recommended Practice Buildings that infill vacant lots in downtowns and villages, yet do not match the massing, scale or design pattern of what exists, detract from the streetscape and create gaps and incompatible design patterns. Infill buildings should be designed with the same setback and proportions of scale and massing to what currently exists on the street. They can be contemporary in design but need to be contextually connected in some manner. 4-14
  15. 15. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan Along with promoting the existing character within the architecture new development should be planned and designed in such a way that the development patterns of the historic neighborhoods is maintained. Designs that are sensitive to the scale, form, rhythm, proportions, and materials proximate to neighborhoods that have a well-established, distinctive character should be encouraged. Strategy to Avoid This suburban-style property, with a large lawn, dissimilar setback, and incompatible architecture, does not fit with the character of its surroundings. Recommended Strategy New development in this neighborhood fits within its surroundings by respecting existing and desirable architectural patterns, including similar setbacks, scale and massing, street trees, and sidewalks. 4-15
  16. 16. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES Vischer Ferry Fire House Although the Vischer Ferry Fire House predates the Mohawk Towpath Byway, it serves as an excellent example of compatible design. The original building, built in the 1970s, was a boxy, Spartan structure. During the design discussions prior to renovating the building, the District thought that Greek revival elements could be added to help the structure fit with the community. The new building’s sloping roof turns what was a boxy structure into a pleasant Greek revival building that better matches the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood. LIGHT HOUSE PARK PAVILION Light House Park is a small waterfront park in the town of Halfmoon on the Hudson River, located adjacent to a large historic Greek revival homestead. The park includes a pavilion as part of the amenities. Rather than a utilitarian pole barn type of construction with open wood truss roof, Halfmoon chose to use elements from the neighboring structure. 4-16
  17. 17. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES Appropriate Material Choice Using the appropriate building materials is an important aspect of compatible design. Many communities along the Byway used to have brick yards, so brick is particularly common. To fit within the character of the existing brick structures, and to celebrate the Byway’s history of brick production, new buildings or parks could incorporate brick into their designs. NORTH MOHAWK STREET, COHOES A construction project in Cohoes in the early 1990s vividly demonstrated what could be done through context-sensitive design. Although the Byway cannot take credit for the improvements along North Mohawk Street, the construction allowed access for archeology studies and a park to observe historic canal construction. Well-placed amenities and interpretive signs invite passersby to investigate. 4-17
  18. 18. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2.8 SITING UTILITIES Utility lines are necessary, but often add to the visual clutter that undermines the aesthetic qualities of a landscape. Two simple methods can greatly reduce or eliminate this visual clutter. The first strategy is to place utility lines behind buildings or homes, perhaps behind a line of trees or against a natural edge such as a forest. This method removes the poles and wires from their typical, prominent position along a road to a less obtrusive location. The second strategy is to put the lines underground. This method can be more costly, but where employed, can completely remove the utilities from the visual landscape. This approach is highly recommended in valued public landscapes, such as villages or in historic districts. Recommended Strategy 1 Whenever possible, place utility lines underground, completely eliminating the visual clutter they add to the landscape. The utilities shown here by the red dashed line would run under a paved or grassed strip between sidewalk Recommended Strategy 2 Siting utility lines behind buildings on a main road can minimize visual clutter from the streetscape. 4-18
  19. 19. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-19
  20. 20. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.2.9 VANTAGE POINTS Vantage points are positions in the landscape that provide opportunities to experience the unique or scenic viewsheds of the area. They may be made up of one point, or of a series of points along a stretch of road. The highly scenic landscapes and built environment that are visible from the Mohawk Byway are an integral part of the experience, whether driving to work or visiting the region. Preserving viewsheds along the Byway corridor is essential to protect scenic resources for the aesthetic and economic value they provide. Practice to Avoid In this scene, open spaces with distant views to the river are closed off by development. Recommended Practice Proposed development can be sited to maintain vantage points and views, and even help frame them. 4-20
  21. 21. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-21
  22. 22. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.3 MATERIALS 4.3.1 Compatible Colors Employing appropriate colors and materials for building finishes can help blend development effectively with its natural surroundings. All landscapes have a unique color palette that humans consciously or unconsciously understand to be part of their aesthetic character. A contextual approach to color can be an important consideration when planning new construction. It is desirable to work within an existing natural palette to decrease the visual impact development will have on an existing scenic landscape. Selecting Color Shown below is a selection of photos taken along the byway. The colors shown surrounding the images below are colors derived from the natural landscape. Colors selected from the landscape are sometimes referred to as “earth tones.” Typically, the darker the tone used for cladding, the more the building will recede in the view. For bright, open landscapes, such as a meadow, lighter, brighter colors may be more appropriate. 4-22
  23. 23. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan Shown below are two scenarios for selecting colors from the landscape and applying them to new construction that best enable the buildings to blend in with their surroundings. The color selected depends primarily on the colors present in the specific landscape to be developed. More precisely, the color used should be appropriate to the placement of the structures in the landscape. For example, typical areas of development are meadows with a forested backdrop. If the structure to be built is along the forested backdrop, a darker earth tone that matches or relates to the forest coloration would be most appropriate. If the structure is built with a meadow backdrop, a lighter tone that matches or is harmonious with the meadow color ranges would be most appropriate. The existing field in the lower left photo is not currently developed and affords a beautiful open vista to the ridge. By selecting an earth tone color for the exterior, even a sizeable home can be made to blend with its surroundings and the forested backdrop, and thus would not overly impact the scenic view. 4-23
  24. 24. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.4 SIGNAGE 4.4.1 Appropriate Sign Design Well-designed and well-placed signs can complement the character of the Byway and are an important aspect of promoting scenic quality. Incompatible signs and a proliferation of signs create clutter and detract from resources of scenic or historic significance that help define the beauty of a place. Therefore, the design and development of effective and appropriate signs should include an attention toward design, messaging, legibility, placement, and lighting that is compatible with the character of the Byway. One opportunity for communities along the Byway is to consider coordinated wayfinding systems to assist travelers in reaching their desired destinations in a timely and safe manner. While the responsibility is typically on individual business owners, organizations, and institutions to ensure that their properties, buildings, or businesses are effectively signed, the individual municipality has the purview of sign approval and the potential to guide effective and appropriate sign design. Several basic design strategies for good signage are provided herein that would help promote and enhance the character of the Byway. Strategy to Avoid Signs that interfere with a building’s architectural patterns, such as fenestration and façade, appear visually discordant. Recommended Strategy Place signs on buildings in a way that complements the architecture and creates a more visually pleasing effect. Sign bands that accommodate all signs for a building work best. 4-24
  25. 25. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan Strategy to Avoid Recommended Strategy Internally illuminated signs with lightcolored backgrounds overwhelm the dark-colored lettering, which both makes the sign less legible and creates unnecessary glare along the road. Internally lit signs should only illuminate lettering on a dark-colored background. These signs are highly legible in both nighttime and daytime conditions and do not create undue glare. Strategy to Avoid Recommended Strategy Ground mounted spotlights result in excess light and cause unnecessary glare on the roadway. Mount spotlights directly on freestanding signs to reduce or eliminate excess light spill. Lighting fixtures and the housing for the lights can also be designed in a manner that provides uniform illumination for just the sign surface. 4-25
  26. 26. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES The Proctor’s Block on State Street in Schenectady is a prime example of appropriate sign design. It seems that proper lighting is often a greatly misunderstood topic when looking at development plans. Lighting fixtures are chosen because they fit the “architectural scheme” of things, but do nothing for the overall proper lighting of an area or object. Lighting should be directed to “wash down” rather than “light up,” which tends to light the night sky rather than the landscape or surfaces below. Improper lighting can be too much or too little light or the wrong type of bulb or fixture for the job at hand. When evaluating new signage, what type of light is proposed and is it proper for a given area? Getting the lighting right early in the design is important, because once a lighting system is installed, even if it’s a poor choice from the conceptual stage, communities may stuck with it for decades. 4-26
  27. 27. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.4.2 Future Signage Sign design can have a substantial role in a community’s visual character and economic vitality. Although there is currently extensive signing in the Mohawk Valley, new signing that may be proposed in the future should incorporate architectural references (color, materials, details) from the building it references. A beautifully-designed sign that is easy to read reinforces the values of the business it serves and attracts customers. Signs that are legible and well placed in the landscape or on the building enhance site and village character, and can reinforce the historic qualities and sense of place within the Byway corridor. Typical Practice: • Ground and building mounted signs • Plastic or wood signboards with business name, graphics and services listed • Signs with extensive messaging and insufficient contrast for legibility • Undersized or oversized signs and undesirable placement as freestanding or building mounted elements • Unpainted or undersized support posts for signs Recommended Practice: • Signs with limited messaging and highly legible and appropriate typography; no more than 3-4 messages can be safely read by individuals traveling in vehicles • Color schemes that promote contrast with lettering and consequent legibility • Signage appropriately placed on the building to fit with rather than “fight” the architectural style • Appropriately sized and scaled signboards, whether building or ground mounted 4-27
  28. 28. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-28
  29. 29. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.5 LIGHTING 4.5.1 Appropriate Lighting Light pollution in rural and scenic areas is a growing problem. As development increases, so too does the amount of light used. This light often escapes its intended target, spilling out into the sky and detracting from the visibility of stars, while increasing glare along roadways and in residential areas. By employing good lighting design techniques, the amount of unnecessary light entering the sky can be decreased, while still allowing for adequate lighting where it is needed. Strategy to Avoid Typical floodlight type fixtures have no shield and spill bright pools of light and glare outside the intended area, potentially onto adjacent properties. Recommended Strategy Lighting, whether on buildings, along streets or on signs, should always be designed in such a way as to minimize light spilling outside the intended area, especially across vistas or directly into a driver’s eyes. By encasing the light elements within a fixture, the light is directed to where it is needed, rather than in any direction the bare bulb will shine. 4-29
  30. 30. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-30
  31. 31. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.5.2 Direct Light Downward Accompanying good lighting design is the principal of directing light downward. By directing light downward at an intended location unintended light intrusion into neighboring homes can be limited along with reducing glare on roads and the various users traveling on them. Strategy to Avoid Floodlight type fixtures affixed to facades that have no shield and spill bright pools of light and glare outside the intended area, potentially onto adjacent properties and users. In this scenario there will be a large amount of off-site glare. Recommended Strategy Directing lights at given locations that are in need of illumination with proper levels, and shields in place will limit off-site glare and prohibit any unintended light spill, minimizing safety concerns. 4-31
  32. 32. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-32
  33. 33. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.6 LANDSCAPE/VEGETATION 4.6.1 Limit Clearing Forestland throughout the Mohawk Byway Region represents one of the dominant landscape patterns, and is also one of the most valuable aesthetic and natural assets. Typical development that clears large areas of land for building sites can dramatically diminish both the scenic and ecological value of these lands, and leave holes or gaps in an otherwise continuous land use type. Limiting clearing through careful site planning allows the integrity and scenic quality of the forests to be maintained. Strategy to Avoid Typical development in forestland clears large areas of vegetation for building sites and fragments these previously undeveloped lands. Recommended Strategy Careful site planning can limit clearing, and greatly reduce negative aesthetic and ecological impacts. 4-33
  34. 34. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-34
  35. 35. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.6.2 Street Trees & Vegetation Street trees and other vegetation play an important role in defining the scenic quality and appearance of the Byway. Trees and vegetation screen development, organize land use activities, and add visual interest. Street trees also add immeasurable value to urban streets, such as shade, visual softening of built edges, and creating safer walking environments. Ecologically, they act as mini habitats and cover for various species and serve as stormwater management tools. Street trees should be selected for hardiness and site suitability. To provide a continuous canopy, street trees are typically spaced 25 to 35 feet apart along both sides of the street in an alternating pattern. Actual spacing is dependent on the location, the type of trees selected, and their mature size. A local forester, arborist, or landscape architect can provide an appropriate tree-planting schedule that considers local climate and soil type. Existing Condition Many mature, existing trees and vegetation are removed during site clearing for development and road construction. Recommended Strategy Plant street trees when development projects and roadside utilities need to be screened from the traveling public or adjacent uses. Street trees and vegetation should also be planted to provide organizing elements and screen or buffer incompatible or unattractive uses. 4-35
  36. 36. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan Selection of tree species and location of overhead utilities are important considerations. Our utility companies spend a great deal of money (our utility delivery costs) reducing the risk of ice damage. The result can be unsightly “U” shaped tree crowns. Flowering apple species or dwarf varieties may better serve the purpose. Care should also be taken so not to reduce visibility at intersections and curbcuts. SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-36
  37. 37. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.6.3 Incorporate Streetscape Elements New life can come to town and city streets that incorporate streetscape elements that include support for multi-modal transportation options such as bus shelters and bike lanes. Traffic calming elements that include improved lighting, signage and landscaping, pedestrian accommodations and traffic safety enhancements greatly enhance the livability of the street and add value to the adjacent properties. Street tree plantings and innovative stormwater infrastructure can add functional and aesthetic value to a street by helping to reduce the impacts of climate change via reductions in runoff amounts and velocity and shading and cooling. Existing Condition Wide streets with little in the way of landscaping, traffic calming and pedestrian amenities can negatively affect the quality of life in a neighborhood. Aging and unsightly utility poles and excessive pavement create negative aesthetic and functional impacts that can result in undesirable economic implications for a community. Recommended Strategy Employing streetscape tools and practices coupled with Green Infrastructure initiatives can convert an existing typical street into a multi-dimensional, vibrant, safe and attractive environment. 4-37
  38. 38. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-38
  39. 39. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.7 ACCESS MANAGEMENT/TRANSPORTATION PLANNING 4.7.1 Limit Curb cuts The historic development pattern along highways in the Byway corridor has been linear, continuous and with each building or lot having its own access with a dedicated curb cut. This type of pattern creates traffic safety issues with too many vehicles entering and exiting individual lots and commercial sites, and contributes to visual clutter along the road. When businesses or residences share access drives many benefits accrue to both the public and the property owner. Shared access reduces development and maintenance costs. Multiple businesses that share entry roads can improve internal traffic circulation, consolidate parking lots and reduce their overall footprint of impervious pavement and development area, thereby increasing safety, enhancing the streetscape and decreasing the environmental impact. Existing Condition Linear commercial and residential development has set the precedent of multiple curb cuts along the highway. This practice adds to the visual clutter, as well as increases traffic conflicts, leading to the potential for more accidents. Recommended Strategy In new development or redevelopment projects, the number of curb cuts can be reduced by re-orienting the buildings, creating a shared parking lot, and designing shared access to a neighborhood. As a result, the quality of the developed highway environment has been improved, traffic conflicts reduced, and a more attractive neighborhood and commercial center created. 4-39
  40. 40. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-40
  41. 41. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.7.2 Complete Streets The complete streets methodology is based on redeveloping city and town thoroughfares with multi-modal use (pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular, and transit) and community character as a core element. Complete streets implement key smart growth principles such as walkable environments and traffic calming to promote livable neighborhoods. Incorporating complete streets practices into roadway design will encourage visitors and residents alike to safely and comfortably explore the Byway by bike and on foot. Existing Condition Typical roadway design focuses on efficient flow of vehicular traffic, creating an unpleasant and potentially dangerous environment for bicyclists and pedestrians. Recommended Strategy Complete streets strategies may include dedicated bike lanes or paths, pedestrian walkways and crosswalks, and other traffic calming strategies such as curb extensions and pedestrian refuge islands. 4-41
  42. 42. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES Cohoes Crescent Road The Mohawk Towpath Byway and the town of Colonie partnered to carry out a study of potential improvements to Cohoes Crescent Road, one of the most highly-traveled segments of the Byway. The study identified five alternatives to evaluate, which were guided by the ‘complete streets’ methodology. The alternative selected featured a multi-use path running between the road and the river, formalized parking and pull-offs, new shoreline access points, and upgrades to the existing pocket parks along the road. The town is now seeking funding to implement the recommended project. The study also provides a template for evaluating other segments of the Byway. 4-42
  43. 43. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.7.3 Scenic Pull-Offs Pull-offs are a key component of any scenic byway, and may feature recreational amenities, river access, and interpretive signage. Pull-offs enhance the Byway experience, providing opportunities for visitors to enjoy the scenery and learn about the history of the area. To increase the presence and visibility of the Byway, scenic pull-offs should be identified with clear and consistent signage. Existing Condition Although there are some existing scenic pull-offs along the Byway, there are many stretches of highway with few opportunities to pause and enjoy the scenery or learn about the history of the Byway. Recommended Strategy Establish new scenic pull-offs at key locations. Pull-offs should offer sufficient parking, interpretive signage, and appropriate recreational amenities, such as picnic tables, gazebos, grassy areas, shade trees, trails, restrooms, and river access points. 4-43
  44. 44. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES Historic Dunsbach Ferry Site The pull-off at the site of the historic Dunsbach Ferry is a prime example of how simple improvements can greatly enhance the attractiveness and scenic quality of a pull-off. After the installation of an interpretive sign, seen below, an ambitious Eagle Scout adopted the site as a community service project. The young scout rallied his troop, friends, and family to put down a fresh layer of crushed stone and install a wooden fence surrounding the pulloff. The historic Dunsbach Ferry site is now more visible, accessible, and attractive to passersby on the Byway. COHOES FALLS VIEW PARK The four-acre Cohoes Falls View Park, opened in 2009, offers visitors a new perspective of the second highest waterfall in New York State. The park is enhanced with interpretive signage from the National Park Service that tell the history of the falls and the surrounding area. Additional infrastructure includes fishing platforms and an 80-seat amphitheater. The Park was the result of successful public-private collaboration involving Brookfield Renewable Power, the City of Cohoes, and the National Park Service’s Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor. 4-44
  45. 45. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan Crescent Park Crescent Park is home to the first interpretive kiosk built along the Byway. The kiosk’s three panels tell the story of the town of Halfmoon, the hamlet of Crescent, and the Mohawk Towpath Byway. The park improvements were funded by a grant to the New York State Scenic Byways Program and carried out by the Halfmoon Parks Department, with assistance from the Shenendehowa Rotary Club. 4-45
  46. 46. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.7.4 Access to River River access, for both viewing and recreation, can greatly enhance scenic pull-offs and parks. The Mohawk River can provide many recreational opportunities for visitors, including canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. River access points are also key sites for intepretive signs that teach visitors about the history of the area. Existing Condition Existing pull-offs and trailheads typically have limited river access, insufficient parking, and few complementary recreational amenities. Recommended Strategy Provide access to the Mohawk River, for both viewing and recreation, including canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Supplement river access with other recreational amenities, interpretive signage, and ample parking spaces. 4-46
  47. 47. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-47
  48. 48. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.7.5 Gateways At the entrances to towns, well-defined gateway elements can give visitors a sense of arrival. These road design features can provide the supplemental benefit of calming traffic. Narrower, tree-lined streets can slow down drivers as they approach the town at highway speeds, both increasing the likelihood that visitors will notice unplanned attractions and creating a safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists. Gateways are thus a very important aspect of scenic management, as they encourage visitors to see more of what the Byway has to offer than they would notice from a car window. Existing Condition Currently, entrances to many towns along the highways within the Byway corridor are not welldefined. Recommended Strategy Enhance town entrances with street trees, gateway signs, and vegetated road medians. 4-48
  49. 49. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES To be provided by the Coalition 4-49
  50. 50. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.8 RECLAMATION AND REVEGETATION 4.8.1 Adaptive Re-Use Adaptive re-use of existing industrial (or commercial) sites is an effective land development strategy, particularly in older towns and neighborhoods. In an era when many older industrial sites are being vacated or abandoned, there are opportunities to redevelop those sites for new residential, cultural or mixed uses. One preferred option includes retaining the building footprints, shells and structures and rehabilitating those structures for new projects. Strategy to Avoid Industrial sites located amongst residential and commercial buildings are often unsightly, noisy, and disruptive to the character of the place. Recommended Strategy When possible, redevelop industrial sites with buildings or recreational facilities that fit with character of the area. At the very least, industrial sites should be screened to mitigate their negative scenic impacts. 4-50
  51. 51. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES One of the greatest success stories and, perhaps, the most visible on the Mohawk Towpath Byway is the conversion of Harmony Mills complex in Cohoes into high end loft apartments with amenities including an indoor pool and indoor parking. These massive brick structures have dominated the textile manufacturing district since 1872. The restoration of the roof lines and the unique ornate architectural features of the facade has restored the grandeur of the place as well as providing a glimpse of this important piece of the Industrial Revolution. Another example of adaptive reuse is Cornell’s Restaurant on North Jay Street, Schenectady. Originally built as a retail store the building was converted to its present use in 2001. The restaurant has grown to be one of the key businesses in the section of the city locally called “Little Italy.” Cornell’s is the building to the right in the photograph on page 4-9. 4-51
  52. 52. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.8.2 Topography & Woodland Landscape Preserving the natural resources of the Mohawk Valley and maintaining the integrity of forested landscapes and their associated topography is a critical concern for the future of the region. Low Impact Development (LID) reduces the footprint of new development and helps to preserve the functional capacities of undeveloped lands to provide ecosystem services such as the filtering and storing of excess runoff, an important consideration in this era of increased and higher volume precipitation events. Forestlands and undeveloped slopes and hillsides that are not fragmented - left intact - also serve to retain the valued scenic qualities of the region. Strategy to Avoid Residential development that disrupts the existing topography and vegetation patterns, with excessive clearing and flattening of the land, detracts from the scenic wooded hillsides of the Byway landscape. Recommended Strategy Cluster residential development to preserve intact forested land. Roads should be designed to follow the natural topography of the land, and clearing around houses should be minimized. 4-52
  53. 53. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan SUCCESS STORIES The Steinmetz Connection The “Steinmetz Connection” is a perfect example of how towns along the Byway can maintain the natural topography and intact woodland landscapes, and additionally create new opportunities for recreation and historic engagement. The town of Clifton purchased a 41-acre parcel in between the Byway and the Mohawk River, which is home to many old trails and a 2-acre pond used historically for ice. By purchasing the property, Clifton Park maintained the scenic character of the woodlands while creating opportunities for visitors to get out and explore the Byway landscape. In addition it has been discovered that this property may have been used by Charles Steinmetz as a camping retreat in the early part of the twentieth century. This adds another story to the Byway’s collection. Above: Charles Steinmetz cir 1915 from Wikipedia.com. Below: Hiking one of the trails in the Riverview Road property. 4-53
  54. 54. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.9 REGULATORY ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES AND OPTIONS 4.9.1 Visual inventory A visual inventory is the best way to document and manage important scenic resources that need preserving, and the foundation for the development of effective protection strategies. Such an inventory might include written descriptions and photos of the views, open spaces, and related visual resources of concern. The inventory may also include site-specific information that distinguishes unique characteristics, size of the site, ownership, accessibility, key vantage points, and potential threats. 4.9.2 Visual assessment Once important viewsheds and vistas have been identified, a visual assessment can be conducted to help understand how development might impact the visual character of the area. In addition to the evaluation of the significance of a scenic resource, techniques for assessing visual impact include viewshed mapping, visual simulations, line-of-sight sections, photographic inventories, site analysis, and field review. For more information, see the additional materials listed the Resources section at the end of this report. 4.9.3 Overlay zoning districts Adopted as part of a zoning bylaw, overlay districts are land use districts superimposed over one or more basic zoning districts. Overlay districts alert developers and landowners to issues and additional requirements that need to be addressed when applying for development permits. They establish development restrictions, or extend development incentives, on properties within a defined geographic area or on land characterized by specific physical features or site conditions (e.g. steep slopes or wetlands). They are intended to discourage development in unsuitable areas and protect certain critical features and resources (e.g. wildlife, floodplains, rare species, agriculture). Because overlay zoning districts do not change the underlying zoning of an area, they can often be a more politically viable option than modifying zoning districts. 4.9.4 Design guidelines and design review Design guidelines and review, like overlay zoning districts, can help to protect and enhance the scenic character of an area by setting standards for new construction and renovations. Design guidelines can limit the impact of development on scenic views and viewsheds through siting buildings and roads, maintaining or improving vegetative buffers, establishing building heights, materials and colors, and outlining compatible uses. The foundation of the design guidelines and review process is a comprehensive visual analysis, which has now been undertaken for the Mohawk Towpath Regional Byway, to identify important landscape and architectural features. 4-54
  55. 55. SECTION 4. SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Action Plan 4.9.5 Tree-cutting standards Tree-cutting standards limit or control tree cutting and tree damage during construction, preserve existing trees, and add new trees or replace old trees. As trees and other vegetation play an important role in the scenic quality of an area, tree-cutting standards can be a valuable strategy for scenic conservation and enhancement. Tree planting guidelines, including information on appropriate species, can supplement tree-cutting standards. 4.9.6 Sign regulations Sign regulations can promote well-designed and well-placed signs, by establishing height and size limits, banning billboard signs, and controlling sign illumination methods, for example. By paring down or preventing an excessively cluttered sign landscape, the Byway can clarify and strengthen its visual identity through cohesive signage. Signs should reflect the character of the area and make it easy and safe for visitors to navigate the Byway and its associated attractions. 4.9.7 Cluster or conservation subdivisions Cluster subdivision is a type of land subdivision that groups homes close together on small lots to permanently protect views, open space, and valuable land. The portion of the parcel that is not developed may be restricted by a conservation easement or used for common space and generally owned by the developer or a homeowners association. Conservation subdivisions are similar in that they employ clustering, but are oriented more toward siting lots and development in a manner that protects the integrity of the natural and aesthetic resources of a site. 4.9.8 Incentive based programs Incentive-based programs, such as a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program, preserve scenic areas by offering density bonuses, expedited permitting process, less stringent design review, or tax breaks to encourage landowners or developers to take advantage of the program. TDR is a program established by local zoning ordinance that relocates the potential “right to develop” from areas where proposed land use or environmental impacts are considered undesirable (the “sending” site) to another site chosen or defined by local bylaws (the “receiving” site) on the basis of its ability to accommodate additional units of development beyond that for which it was zoned, with minimal environmental, social, and aesthetic impacts. TDRs are typically used to protect open space or environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands, farmland, forests, or critical wildlife habitat. 4-55

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