[HISTORY: Adopted by the Council of the City of Mount Vernon 1-25-1961 as Ch. 54 of the General Ordinances; amended in its entirety 11-24-2009, approved 11-25-2009. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
Zoning — See Ch. 267.
It is the purpose of this chapter to preserve the prevailing aesthetic character of the City and its environs while permitting originality and resourcefulness in building design and appearances which are appropriate to their site and surroundings, yet preventing such design and appearances that would be unnecessarily offensive to visual sensibilities. The preserving and promoting of the character, appearances and aesthetics of the City will serve to maintain the property values within the City of Mount Vernon. Enhancing the attractiveness of the residential and business areas of the City offers an economic stability for the entire community. This chapter serves to provide procedures for an architectural review of structures henceforth erected, reconstructed or altered in the City to encourage good qualities of exterior building design, appropriate appearances and to relate such design and appearances to the surrounding sites and structures. It is also the purpose of this chapter to prevent the harmful effects of inappropriate exterior appearances of buildings erected, reconstructed or altered in any neighborhood, thus promoting and protecting the general welfare of the community and conserving the value of buildings.
The City Council hereby finds that structures and architectural features with excessive uniformity, dissimilarity, inappropriateness or poor quality of design in the exterior appearance of buildings erected in any neighborhood adversely affects the desirability of the immediate area and neighboring areas for residential and business purposes or other use and by so doing impairs the benefits of occupancy of existing property in such areas, impairs the stability and value of both improved and unimproved real property in such areas, prevents the most appropriate development of such areas, produces degeneration of property in such areas with attendant deterioration of conditions affecting the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the inhabitants and occupants thereof, and destroys a proper relationship between the taxable value of real property in such areas and the cost of municipal services provided therefor.
The Architectural Review Board of the City of Mount Vernon is hereby created pursuant to Article 5, § 96-a, of the General Municipal Law of the State of New York.
Membership. The Architectural Review Board shall consist of five members. The members of the Architectural Review Board shall be specially qualified by reason of training or experience in art, architecture, community planning, land development, real estate, landscape architecture or other relevant business or profession or by reason of civic interest and sound judgment to judge of the effects of a proposed building upon the desirability, property values and development of surrounding areas. One member of the Architectural Review Board shall be a licensed architect duly registered in the State of New York and one member shall be a licensed real estate broker duly registered in the State of New York. The members shall be appointed, and the Chairman thereof shall be designated by the Mayor.
Meetings and records. The presence of three members of the Architectural Review Board shall be necessary for a quorum, and the concurring vote of three members shall be necessary to effect and decision before the Architectural Review Board. The Board shall keep minutes of its proceedings, showing the vote of each member on every question or, if any member is absent or fails to vote, indicating that fact, and shall also keep records of its examinations and other official actions. Every rule, determination, regulation, amendment or appeal thereof, and every order, requirement and decision of the Architectural Review Board shall immediately be filed in the office of the Architectural Review Board.
Terms. The members of the Architectural Review Board shall be appointed by the Mayor of the City of Mount Vernon as provided. To assure that no more than two Board members' terms expire within any given year, the new term of appointment for the first Board member's term that expires in 2010 shall be five years, the new term of appointment for the second Board member's term that expires in 2010 shall be four years, and the new term of appointment for the third Board member's term that expires in 2010 shall be three years. All subsequent new terms of appointment for expiring Board member terms shall be five years. In the event of any Architectural Review Board vacancy, the Mayor shall appoint a member to fill the unexpired term. Each member shall be entitled to one vote.
General. The Architectural Review Board shall have all of the powers and duties prescribed by General Municipal Law of the State of New York and by this chapter, which powers and duties are summarized and more particularly specified in the following. The Architectural Review Board shall take into specific consideration the goals as well as the specifics of this chapter.
Rules and regulations. The Architectural Review Board may adopt such rules and regulations as it deems necessary and proper to the performance of its powers and duties hereunder and may amend or repeal the same.
Amendments. Amendments to the rules and regulations adopted for the governance and procedures of the Architectural Review Board shall be made in the form of a vote to place such amendments on the next agenda of the Architectural Review Board. No changes shall take effect until placed upon such agenda, reviewed by the Architectural Review Board staff and adopted pursuant to these regulations and any requirements of applicable local and state law.
Certificate of appropriateness review.
The Architectural Review Board must issue a certificate of appropriateness related to the construction and site landscaping of any new structures (primary and accessory) or the exterior improvement, alteration, remodeling, repairing and/or enlargement of any existing structures, including changes of materials, windows, doors, proposed fences, proposed retaining walls, proposed freestanding walls, proposed ramps and any other exterior building element(s) because of its architectural elements, colors, design(s), materials, height, or mass prior to the issuance of a building permit.
The Architectural Review Board may adopt a list of types of activities of lesser impact for which the staff of the Department of Planning and Community Development may grant certificates of appropriateness, and may establish procedures for this purpose. The staff of Department of Planning and Community Development may exercise discretion within such listed activities to grant or deny certificates of appropriateness or to determine that an action should instead be referred the Architectural Review Board. An applicant may appeal the staff of the Department of Planning and Community Development's decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness under this section to the Architectural Review Board.
Recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Architectural Review Board is empowered to make recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeals on area variance applications.
Recommendations to the Planning Board. The Architectural Review Board is empowered to make recommendations to the Planning Board on site plan applications.
Recommendations to the City Council. The Architectural Review Board is empowered to review and make recommendations on matter or class of matters referred to the Architectural Review Board by the City Council prior to final action by the City Council being taken on said matter(s).
Design guidelines. The Architectural Review Board may establish and enforce design guidelines subject to City Council approval as the Architectural Review Board deems necessary and proper to the performance of its powers and duties hereunder.
Ancillary powers. Perform such other advisory duties as may be prescribed in the City Code.
In considering a certificate of appropriateness, the Architectural Review Board shall be guided by the following standards prior to rendering a decision pursuant to § 10-7 of this chapter:
The natural features of the site and surroundings, exterior design and appearances of existing structures and the character of the surrounding properties and neighborhood and its peculiar suitability for particular purposes, with a view to conserving and enhancing the values of property and encouraging the most appropriate use of land.
The scale and mass of proposed new structures or additions to structures in relation to the property itself, surrounding properties and the neighborhood.
The exterior materials, textures, colors, patterns, rhythms and styles of a structure in relation to the structure itself, surrounding structures and the neighborhood.
The visual compatibility of a structure with surrounding properties related to the facades of a structure, their proportion and arrangement of windows, doors and other openings within the facade.
The proposed action's consistency with the any design guidelines established by the Architectural Review Board.
Grounds for approval. The Architectural Review Board may approve any application referred to it upon finding that the building or structure for which the permit was requested, if erected or altered in accordance with the submitted plan(s), would:
Conditions and safeguards. The Architectural Review Board may prescribe such conditions or restrictions applying to the granting of the certificate of appropriateness as it deems necessary in each specific case in order to minimize the adverse effects of such developments upon other property in the neighborhood and to protect the public health, safety, welfare and property values. Such conditions or restrictions shall be incorporated in the building permit and certificate of occupancy. Failure to comply with such conditions or restrictions shall constitute a violation of this chapter and may constitute the basis for denial or revocation of a building permit or certificate of occupancy and for all other applicable remedies such as but not limited to fines and modification of the structure.
Grounds for disapproval. The Architectural Review Board may disapprove any application, provided that the Architectural Review Board finds and states that the structure or building for which the permit was requested would, if constructed, improved, built, altered, remodeled, repaired and/or enlarged, create one of the following detrimental effects:
Monotonous similarity to any other structure(s) located or proposed to be located, such as but limited to setbacks from street lines, heights, widths and lengths of elements of building design and exterior materials and treatments in relation to the structure itself, surrounding structures and the neighborhood;
Monotonous similarity related to the size and arrangement of either doors, windows, other openings or breaks or extensions of the facade(s) in relation to the structure itself, surrounding structures and the neighborhood;
Striking dissimilarity or visual discord with respect to other structures or buildings located or proposed to be located in the same area and/or neighborhood, including but not limited to setbacks from street lines and discontinuity with respect to streetwalls;
Striking dissimilarity or visual discord with respect to size and arrangement of doors, windows, porticos, porches or garages or other openings, breaks or extensions in the facade;
Striking dissimilarity or visual discord with respect to other significant design features, such as but not limited to exposed mechanical equipment, service and storage areas, signage areas, sign types, light fixtures, fences, drainage, vents and utility meters;
Visual offensiveness or poor quality of the exterior materials, textures, color, patterns, rhythms and styles of a structure in relation to the structure itself, surrounding structures and the neighborhood;
Visual offensiveness or other poor qualities of the exterior design of a structure, including but not limited to excessive and nonharmonious divergences of the height or levels of any part of the structure from the grade of terrain, or incompatibility of a proposed structure or the refurbishing, reconstruction, alteration or expansion of an existing structure with the terrain on which it is to be located, the failure of the exterior design to complement and enhance the natural beauty of its site, in regard to landscape, topography, paved areas and surrounding structures.
Application. All applications to the Architectural Review Board shall be made by the owner or agent duly authorized, in writing, and shall be on forms prescribed by the Architectural Review Board. Each application shall fully set forth the circumstances of the case, shall refer to the specific provision of the chapter involved and shall exactly set forth, as the case may be, the details of any and all waivers or deviations that are applied for and the grounds for which it is claimed that the same should be granted.
Review by other agencies. Upon receipt of a completed application, the Architectural Review Board shall forward copies for review and report such to any other officials and agencies as it deems appropriate.
Public meeting. The Architectural Review Board shall conduct a public meeting on any application or request made pursuant to this chapter. The deliberations of the Architectural Review Board shall be conducted publicly, and all votes on any matter before the Architectural Review Board must be taken at a public meeting.
Sign posting. A sign as prescribed in the Architectural Review Board's rules and procedures shall be posted along all street frontages of the subject site at least 14 days prior to the meeting date. The applicant shall file with the Architectural Review Board a duly sworn affidavit attesting that such notification was completed.
Affidavit of sign posting. All required affidavits shall be filed not less than nine days prior to the date of the public meeting.
Action. Every decision of the Architectural Review Board shall be by issuance or denial of a certificate of appropriateness, shall be recorded and shall fully set forth the facts of the case and the findings and conclusions on which it was based. Such certificate of appropriateness shall be prepared. Such decision shall be made within 62 days of the date of the public meeting.
Expiration. Unless otherwise specifically set forth by the Architectural Review Board in connection with its approval of a certificate of appropriateness, such approval shall expire if a building permit is not issued within one year from the date of approval and if all construction work is not completed within two years of the date of issue of such permit. Upon application to the Architectural Review Board, extensions totaling a maximum of 12 months may be granted to each of these time periods for appropriate cause. Such time limits shall be tolled by any judicial proceedings to review the Architectural Review Board's decision.
Compliance. The approved certificate of appropriateness in accordance with the submitted plan(s), and any conditions attached thereto, shall be complied with prior to the issuance of the certificate of occupancy pursuant to § 267-47 of the Mount Vernon Zoning Code. Certificate of appropriateness revisions pursuant to § 10-8G hereof shall be subject to the same approval procedure and requirements as the certificate of appropriateness review. Continued compliance with all such conditions shall be a requirement of the continued validity of the certificate of occupancy. Failure to comply with any certificate of appropriateness conditions or restrictions shall constitute a violation of this chapter and may constitute the basis for denial or revocation of a building permit or denial of a certificate of occupancy and for all other applicable remedies, such as but not limited to fines and modification of the structure.
Amendments. Where unforeseen conditions are encountered which require any change to an approved project design, or where the applicant wishes to modify the approved project design for other reasons, an amended certificate of appropriateness shall be filed for review and approval in accordance with the same procedures required for an initial application.
The City Clerk is hereby specified as the officer who shall issue on behalf of the City the certificate of failure of the Architectural Review Board to take action as prescribed in § 10-8D of this chapter.
Any person aggrieved by the action of the Architectural Review Board in disapproving a certificate of appropriateness application may take an appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Zoning Board of Appeals, after proceeding in the same manner as is provided for zoning appeals and with the same power and authority therein vested in passing upon appeals before it under the provisions of law and in the exercise thereof, may reverse or affirm or modify and affirm the action of the Architectural Review Board.
This chapter shall take effect immediately.