This is another amazing town. The curved facades, the streets that trace the contours of the land, the stone walls, the variety of paint colors: a lot of these design elements are similar to the ones in Ouro Preto; and both are also upland towns, rather than ports. (Tralee does have a basin with access to the sea in its far southwest.) One important difference: unlike Ouro, whose continental roots have its streets converging on a paved plaza, Tralee is laid out more in the English style (apologies to Uncle Don and other Irish patriots), with smaller green squares worked into its grid, and a large park set aside on its outskirts.
Most of the attached buildings in Tralee appear to be built on the standard 20′-25′ (7m) wide lots– the same as in New York City or anywhere else. (On a random note, the forward-pitched roofs on these buildings, which seem so classically Irish, are also common on a certain period of the houses in Newark and Philadelphia.) Meanwhile, the setbacks of the detached houses are modest, the gardens are often bounded by stone walls, and the lot coverages are substantial, all contributing to a sense of enclosure on the greener blocks leading away from the town center.
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A notable unreported land use decision came down from the New Jersey Courts this week. In Signature Communities v. Red Bank ZBA, the Appellate Division rejected an appeal by the owners of Red Bank’s Colony House, who had sued in response to the Board’s refusal to grant a variance for their property, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-70(d). The 1960s apartment building at issue was nonconforming to a number of Red Bank’s current requirements for the site, and when the owners sought approval for a plan to renovate the building, and to shuffle around its bedroom arrangements, they hit a snag with their pre-existing shortage of parking spaces per unit. The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s decision:
In our judgment, the Board’s rejection of plaintiff’s assertions was not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. The record shows that the renovated structure will have nineteen one-bedroom units and forty-nine two-bedroom units. As we have explained, the [Residential Site Improvement Standards] requires 132 parking spaces for such a building. The Board reasonably found that the number of parking spaces proposed by plaintiff was substantially deficient when measured against the number required by RSIS.
It’s interesting that neither the Red Bank ZBA nor the Appellate Division appears to have given much weight to Signature Communities’ arguments that (1) the neighborhood’s inherent walkability and (2) its access to public transportation should mitigate against the state’s generic parking-space criteria. I’m not familiar with the specifics of this case, or with the Red Bank waterfront, but this concerns me. In the effort to push back against sprawl, these are important caveats, and the rigid application of parking-space requirements can kill important development projects that could otherwise be the building blocks of good urban communities.
It’s interesting to think about how much value we could add to our suburban communities with land use codes that emphasized the importance of real, shared public spaces. The interview discussion hints at this a little bit toward the end.
In the nearly six years since the US Court decided Kelo v. New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), New Jersey has tightened its judicial standards quite a bit for eminent domain takings (See: Gallenthin v. Paulsboro, 924 A.2d 447 [N.J. 2007]), while New York’s courts seems to be going in another direction.