Town & Village of Waterford Comprehensive Plan



Executive Summary



Setting the Scene


With funding assistance from the Hudson River Greenway, the Town and Village of Waterford completed its second comprehensive plan in March 2002.  This document summarizes the planning effort and plan contents.  The plan is the result of nearly two years of work by the Town & Village of Waterford Comprehensive Plan/LWRP Committee, elected officials, officials from town and village boards and local residents.


The Comprehensive Plan/LWRP Committee held regular meetings during the planning process, conducting research and designing a detailed community survey to solicit opinions from residents about community values.  The community survey was conducted in January 2000.  Designed to assess residents’ opinions about the future of the Town and Village, the survey was mailed to more than 3,000 households in Waterford and distributed at various public places within the Town and Village.  Nearly 300 households responded to the survey, reflecting a response rate of almost 10%, and this input was incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan and used to identify high priority issues for Town and Village residents.


In addition, the Town and Village of Waterford hosted a public visioning session at the Waterford Civic Center in March 2000 to introduce residents to the planning process and present initial results of the survey.  Residents also participated in a brainstorming exercise designed to identify what they like best about their community, what they would like to change, and what Waterford will be like when the changes have been made.  Comments received from the nearly 100 residents attending the meeting are also incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan.  At a similar meeting, residents participated in an action planning workshop, suggesting goals and reviewing and voting on a slate of recommended actions previously proposed.  The key actions identified through this process were:

·         Developing a youth center

·         Developing a master plan for Broad Street

·         Developing and implementing property maintenance standards and increasing code compliance

·         Restoring Champlain Canal Lock 5

·         Improving museum and interpretive signage.


What is a Comprehensive Plan?


Under New York State law, municipalities are granted the authority and responsibility to prepare and adopt comprehensive plans.  As defined in the state legislation, a comprehensive plan is a document that presents goals, objectives, guidelines and policies for the immediate and long-range protection of a community’s assets as well as strategies for enhanced growth and community development.  Also known as a master plan or land use plan, a comprehensive plan provides guidance to Town and Village leaders and helps to ensure that the community needs will be met in the future.

It is important to understand that the action items described in the plan are not requirements.  Rather, they are recommendations designed to provide focus and direction as the Town and Village of Waterford move ahead to reach their preferred futures.  It will be up to the local community to decide on an ongoing basis which initiatives they will implement and how they wish to proceed.  Although any future land use regulation must be in accordance with the principles of the Comprehensive Plan, there is no legally binding requirement that the Town and Village implement each of the action items proposed in the plan.  The Town and Village Boards should carefully examine proposed land use strategies to minimize the cost to residents and protect private property rights.



Community Involvement


The direction for Waterford’s comprehensive planning effort came from resident input received in the community survey conducted in January 2000 as well as subsequent public meetings.  The survey showed that while people are generally satisfied with the Town and Village overall, residents want some level of change.  Survey respondents indicated that some growth would help Waterford, providing a stronger tax base and opportunities for young people, but that any growth must be gradual and well-planned.


Key community needs raised in the survey included:


  • Improving the appearance and character of downtown Waterford
  • Addressing flood control and truck traffic issues
  • Encouraging expansion of activities for youth as well as recreational opportunities such as hiking and biking trails, park enhancements and open space development
  • Encouraging small business development
  • Strengthening linkages between downtown and waterfront areas


In subsequent months, the Comprehensive Plan/LWRP Committee worked with its consultant, River Street Planning & Development, to conduct several community meetings, including a comprehensive plan orientation session, visioning workshop, and goal setting/action plan workshop.  At the initial meeting, the Committee and River Street Planning described the comprehensive planning process.  Key findings from the Community Profile (the existing conditions portion of the Comprehensive Plan) and survey resulted in specific recommendations from Committee members and residents that have been incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan.


Vision and Goals


Residents and leaders of the Town and Village of Waterford have established the following vision statement for the Town and Village:


Situated at the gateway of the New York State Canal System, Waterford is a safe, close-knit, multi-generational community with a rich industrial heritage.  It is a place with diverse recreational opportunities, from walking along a canalway trail to swimming in the Town pool.  Waterford’s emergency services, churches, fraternal organizations, and youth groups rely on the tradition of volunteer service that is typical for a small community with a stable population.  Waterford values its pedestrian-oriented downtown, the ambiance created by its nineteenth-century architecture, and the waterways which influenced the community’s development.


In the decades ahead, Waterford will remain a family-oriented community offering a balance between development and open space, an expanded array of recreational activities, and enhanced public access to the waterfront.  It will continue to foster the sense of community which has made Waterford a nice place to live, and will encourage excellence in public services, including education.  Waterford will protect and enhance those physical features which make it attractive to residents and visitors alike.  It will also connect newer areas of the community with the more established areas of both the town and village.  It will provide for a range of quality housing options for homeowners, renters, and senior citizens.  Waterford’s vital downtown will be linked to the waterfront, and will become a destination for residents, boaters, and visitors, offering a mix of products and services.


To fulfill this vision and maintain a strong quality of life for residents of the Town and Village has established seven goals and a set of actions to implement the overall vision and goals:


  • To provide high quality facilities and a variety of parks and recreational programs and opportunities to accommodate the needs of residents and visitors of all ages and abilities.
  • To protect open space, scenic vistas, and other important natural resources in Waterford for future generations.
  • To maintain a strong, healthy tax base and promote the long-term economic vitality of the community.
  • To preserve, promote and enhance Waterford’s historic and cultural assets.
  • To stimulate economic development by capitalizing on Waterford’s waterfront location, architecture and history.
  • To provide for a mix of housing types and densities to meet the housing needs of individuals, families and seniors while maintaining the integrity of established residential neighborhoods.
  • To enhance the overall quality of physical infrastructure and municipal services in Waterford and to protect public health and safety.


Action Plan


The Town and Village of Waterford Comprehensive Plan is intended to provide municipal leaders and stakeholders with a collective vision of the kind of place residents would like Waterford to become.  The Action Plan outlines what needs to be done, how to do it and how to pay for it to ensure that the long-term needs of the community will be met.  While the various action items will and should change over time, as some efforts are attempted and abandoned or new issues arise, it should provide a basis for consensus and common direction to Town and Village residents and leaders as they make short- and long-term decisions about Waterford. 


The following summarizes the actions described in the Comprehensive Plan:






Facilities, Parks and Recreation


  • Develop a Youth Center and expand the range of youth programming.
  • Make better use of Sugar Loaf Pond as a recreational asset.
  • Expand winter recreational activities in the community.
  • Work with NYS Canal Corporation to complete improvements at the former Alcathy’s Marina.
  • Complete the network of waterfront trails along the Waterford Flight and Mohawk River to provide expanded public access to these waterways, to link trails to one another, and to provide better connections between waterfront, residential and commercial areas in the Town and Village.
  • Develop a series of nature walk brochures and maps to be used for directed and self-guided tours of the waterfront and other trails.


Protection of Open Space, Scenic Resources, and Other Natural Resources


  • Establish a waterfront overlay district with development standards to ensure that development within or immediately adjacent to scenic view sheds in the Town and Village will be compatible with, complement and enhance the view shed and not compromise the irreplaceable environmental and scenic resources.
  • Work with the City of Cohoes, City of Troy, and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and appropriate others to develop a strategy and implement appropriate land use controls to protect and enhance shared and mutually beneficial (from a tourism perspective) shoreline areas, historic resources, and scenic view sheds.


Tax Base Maintenance and Long-Term Economic Vitality


  • Attract and retain small businesses in the Town and Village of Waterford in designated commercial areas such as along Saratoga Avenue, the Broad Street commercial district and along Hudson River Road.
  • Develop a Master Plan for the Broad Street Corridor.
  • Develop and implement a streetscape improvement program to improve the appearance and condition of streets and sidewalks in the Village.
  • Develop and implement a streetscape improvement program to improve the appearance and condition of streets and sidewalks along Saratoga Avenue in the Town.
  • Attract and retain industry located in the Hudson River Road Sub-Area in the Town of Waterford.


Preservation, Protection and Enhancement of Historic and Cultural Assets


  • Develop detailed design guidelines to assist the planning and zoning boards and property owners to make changes that are compatible with the architectural character and scale of historic district buildings.
  • Strengthen the Village’s historic preservation laws by incorporating design guidelines, the two existing historic preservation ordinances, and building maintenance provisions into the Village Zoning Ordinance.
  • Develop and implement a façade improvement program for commercial and residential facades to improve the physical appearance of the Village and portions of the Town.
  • Review the effectiveness of existing historic preservation laws and amend the Village zoning ordinance to incorporate coordinated historic preservation regulations.
  • Expand and strengthen signage and interpretive programs to make residents and visitors more aware of the wide range of historic resources in the Village.
  • Develop a reuse and restoration strategy for threatened and/or underutilized historic resources.
  • Work with the Waterford Historical Museum to better establish it as the southern visitor gateway to the Champlain Canal Trail, increase its ability to contribute to historic and cultural offerings of the Town and Village, and raise public awareness of its existence.
  • Develop a web site and collateral marketing materials to actively promote Waterford as a destination for recreation and heritage tourism.


Asset-Based Economic Development


  • Improve pedestrian and other linkages between the waterfront and downtown areas.
  • Implement the waterfront projects set forth in the Town and Village of Waterford’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.




  • Develop and implement a flood hazard mitigation plan to address seasonal flooding of residences and other buildings at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers.
  • Increase the rate of owner occupancy in the Village and decrease the number of absentee landlords.
  • Improve and enhance the condition of Village housing stock through code enforcement.
  • Consider adoption of a historic preservation tax exemption program in the Village.
  • Conduct a housing survey to determine housing rehabilitation needs in the Village and apply for housing rehabilitation funding resources as appropriate.  Explore other methods of financing housing rehabilitation for those that do not qualify for traditional state and federal housing rehabilitation programs.
  • Adopt a program in the Town and Village to encourage home improvements without penalizing the homeowner through property tax increases.


Zoning, Physical Infrastructure, Municipal Services


  • Amend the Zoning Ordinances of the Town and Village to correct existing ambiguities and problems and incorporate zoning tools to implement this Comprehensive Plan and the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.
  • Investigate alternatives for parking improvements in the Village.
  • Identify and implement measures to prevent and/or minimize flooding in the Village of Waterford.