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City completing long-awaited waterfront plan

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It’s taken nearly a decade, but the city’s plan to connect the riverfront with downtown soon will be a completed document.

On Monday night, the Watertown City Council approved the reclassification of 63 properties between West Main Street and the Black River in order to conform to the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. Over the past year or so, council members made zoning changes seven other times to get the LWRP on the books and eventually approved by the state Department of State.

The changes were part of numerous others — the first such zoning changes since 1959, when industries dotted the riverbanks.

In 2003, the city began looking at ways to get better use of the riverfront and to connect it with downtown after obtaining a state Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan grant. The plan would establish a mechanism for residential, recreational and tourist uses along the Black River and create a consistent zoning map.

The nearly decade-long efforts finally may come to fruition early next year, said Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator.

“We knew it would take years to go through,” he said.

Last year, city officials hoped to pass the rules and regulations for the LWRP but delayed taking action on the zoning maps because they feared backlash from property owners. But the state balked at that, saying the LWRP would not move forward until the maps were drawn up and approved by the city.

Under the document, residential property will be allowed along the river — something that previously was prohibited, Mr. Mix said.

Another series of zoning changes will occur within about a month before the city’s Planning Department ships the final document to the state Department of State for approval.

The City Council and Planning Board considered the zoning changes in stages in case property owners objected, Mr. Mix said.

“We’ve had a few along the way,” he said.

Under the most recent changes, a potential existing land use was brought to light when a bakery supply business on Holly Street let his department know it would no longer be able to use a vacant lot at M55 Anne St. for parking if it were rezoned as residential C from light industrial, Mr. Mix said.

Previously, the owners of Chiappone’s Tire Warehouse, 842 W. Main St., wanted to keep the property zoned industrial and not switched to neighborhood business district in case they decide to change it from a tire store to something else.

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