7.5 Buffer Yards

.1 Purpose.

The general purpose of buffer yards is to establish regulations protecting and preserving the appearance, character, and value of property within the town. The objectives are to exclude visual contact, create spatial separation and to minimize any adverse impacts on adjacent properties. Where topographical changes, the size and shape of existing lots of record, or other spatial conditions exist which would make adherence to the basic requirement either impossible or ineffective in meeting the purpose of the buffer yard, alternate buffer yard plans will be considered or may be required. These provisions shall not apply to developments in the Town Center (TC), Transit Oriented Development - Residential (TOD-R), and Transit Oriented Development - Employment (TOD-E) zoning districts.

.2 Applicability

All applicable development plans shall comply with the provisions of this section. A change of use, expansion of existing heated square footage of a building, or and expansion of parking and loading areas will require compliance with these provisions as prescribed per Article 11.5.6, Non-conforming landscaping and screening

.3 Function

A buffer yard shall function as an opaque or semi-opaque barrier between the viewer and the use or structure to be buffered. Therefore the exact location and arrangement of materials in the buffer yard will be determined based upon an analysis of site topography and sight lines from public spaces or private properties, which are to be protected. The density of the buffer yard is determined by the intensity of the use and the zoning district. Buffer yard plantings shall meet or exceed the following standards:

Condition where buffer required
Trees 1
Shrubs 1
 I-77 buffer
Any buffer abutting I-77 right-of-way
50 feet, greater if required by district
5 trees per 1,000 square feet or buffer area, 75% large maturing, 50% evergreen
8 shrubs per 1,000 square feet, 75% evergreen
Any property zoned CI, CB or SP2
80 feet abutting street right-of-way and property lines 2

4 trees per 1,000 square feet of buffer area, 75% large maturing, 50% evergreen, 25% small maturing
 5 shrubs per 1,000 square feet, 75% evergreen
Non-residential uses not otherwise listed
Any developing non-residential use abutting a lesser intense use and/or district when not internal to a planned development 3,5
30 feet 6
4 trees per 1,000 square feet of buffer area, 50% large maturing, 25% small maturing, 50% evergreen
7 shrubs per 1,000 square feet, 100% evergreen
Civic Uses             
  • Schools
  • Religious institutions
  • government buildings   
  • libraries
Any civic use abutting a property zoned residential or current use is residential 3,5
30 feet 6
4 trees per 1,000 square feet of buffer area, 50% large maturing, 25% small maturing, 50% evergreen
7 shrubs per 1,000 square feet, 100% evergreen
Any Major residential subdivision abutting a property zoned residential or developed residential, not internal to a planned community 4
20 feet
3 trees per 1,000 square feet of buffer area, 25% large maturing, 25% small maturing, 25% evergreen
10 shrubs per 1,000 square feet, 100% evergreen

1 Minimum tree size is 2 inch caliper, with minimum height 8 feet to 10 feet at time of planting. Shrubs planted shall have a minimum height of 3 feet at installation, expected height of 6 feet at maturity.

2 The CB, CI, and SP buffer is not required if the subject property is abutting a property zoned CB, CI, or SP. Further, a full eighty (80) foot buffer may be reduced along street frontages where building scale, frontage relationship, and location of accessory uses ensures design compatibility off-site.

3 Where non-residential uses are a part of a mixed-use development, buffer yards are not required between lesser intense uses.

4 Where connectivity between subdivisions is appropriate for high quality neighborhood design, the Town Board may reduce or waive the required buffer yard.

5 Except where non-residential uses in the HC and VS district abut residential uses, buffer yard width may be reduced to 10 feet if evergreen shrubs are used that will reach a minimum height of 8 feet at maturity. Shrubs shall be planted to create a complete visual buffer.

6 The hierarchy of uses from lower intensity to higher intensity for purposes of determining buffer yards shall be as follows: Residential; Civic; Commercial / Office; Industrial.

.4 Additional Buffer Yard Standards.

(a) Buffers are not required for internal property boundaries of a planned community with mixed uses, but will be required to be placed at the perimeter of the project.

(b) Perimeter parking lot landscaping shall count towards the buffer requirements.

(c) Berms shall be permitted as part of a successful buffer program providing that they:

(1) Are not permitted along public streets as a means of meeting the buffering requirement of this section.

(2) Have a minimum height of 2 feet, a minimum crown width of 8 feet, and a side slope with a width to height ratio of no greater than 3 to 1 (3:1) if 4 feet or less in height. Berms shall not exceed 6 feet in height and, if greater than 4 feet in height, shall have a minimum crown width of 8 feet, and a side slope with a width to height ratio of no greater than 4 to 1 (4:1). Exceptions may be made to the maximum or minimum height of berms by the zoning administrator where, in his opinion, topographical changes dictate such exception.

(3) Are designed and constructed with an undulating appearance which mimics as much as is practicable a natural topographical feature of the site.

(4) Are substantially planted and covered with live vegetation. No berm shall consist entirely of turf grass, ground cover, mulch or similar material. If a berm is greater than 2 feet in height all trees shall be arranged so that they are planted within 2 vertical feet of the natural grade, unless irrigation is provided.

(5) Are fully installed, planted and stabilized prior to certification of zoning compliance.

(6) Are designed to prevent standing water or to impede the flow of stormwater from adjacent properties.

(7) Are free of structures, including fences, unless approved by the town as part of the landscaping requirements for a development site.

(8) Are held and maintained by a legally constituted homeowners association if located in a residential development and shall not be used as part of any outdoor living space by adjacent property owners within the development.

(9) Are not used for the display of vehicles or other merchandise, except that, when approved by the town, the berm and any other required landscaping area may be used as a display site for landscaping materials and plants for sale by an adjacent use.

(10) Berms are not permitted where installation will destroy or damage required tree save areas.

.5 Spacing of plantings.

Clustering and/or random spacing of plants and trees is encouraged to produce a natural appearance in the landscape to the extent that the plantings meet the screening intent of this section.

.6 Grading and Development within the Buffer Yard Area

No grading, clearing, or land disturbing activities shall occur within the required buffer yard area. Areas completely devoid of existing trees may be graded with slopes no greater than 3:1 as long as the future grades do not change the functionality of the required buffer yard (example: grading of a buffer yard to where the planted vegetation is below the property to be buffered). No fill or grading shall occur in any tree save area. Grading shall not create a new drainage pattern that is harmful to existing vegetation.

.7 Alternate Buffer Yard Plan

In the event of unusual topography or elevation of a development site, soil or other sub-surface condition on the site, or the presence of existing vegetation, the Zoning Administrator may alter the buffer yard requirements as long as the existing features of the development site comply with the spirit and intent of this Article. Such an alteration may occur only at the request of the property owner, who shall submit a plan to the Plan Reviewer showing existing site features that would buffer the proposed use and any additional buffer yard materials the property owner will plant or construct to buffer the proposed use. The Plan Reviewer shall not alter the requirements of the buffer yard unless the developer demonstrates that existing features and any additional buffer yard materials will buffer the proposed use as effectively as the required buffer yard. In deciding whether to approve such a plan, the Plan Reviewer shall consult with the Zoning Inspector. Plans must be reviewed and approved prior to issuance of any certificate of occupancy.

.8 All buffer yards shall remain undisturbed except for the following:

(a) Utility easements may cross a buffer yard, but may not be planted laterally in a buffer yard. To the extent possible, the path cleared shall be replaced with plant materials which are consistent with those that existed prior to the easement.

(b) Driveways and street crossings may cross a buffer yard but may not be installed laterally in a buffer yard.

(c) Sidewalks and other pedestrian or bicycle paths may cross a buffer yard or be placed within it if such avoid disturbing existing vegetation

(d) Landscaping installation, maintenance, and replacement shall be exempt.

.9 In situations where the required buffer yard width is partially or completely contained within an existing easement (e.g. power or natural gas transmission, etc.) the planting requirements of this Ordinance shall be met outside of the easement area. This area shall be identified as a buffer yard on all site, grading, erosion control, and landscape plans.