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Lansing Meadows

On the face of it the request seems simple.  The developer of Lansing Meadows has determined the market is more favorable to sales than rentals, so he is requesting two changes to his Planned Development Area (PDA) that will make it possible to subdivide the units in buildings that are already built.  Four of an eventual six triplexes in the Oakcrest Road development are well on their way to completion.  The buildings won't change, nor will the density, traffic impact, or, really anything except that the units will have separate water meters and owners rather than renters.

But nothing is simple with this development.  Changes to a PDA are made by Village Trustees, because a PDA is, in essence, a zoning ordinance that applies to a specific area.  Lansing Meadows is part of a PDA -- it was a condition of building the retail building that became BJ's Wholesale Club.  The 55 and older housing underwent many major changes before the final plan was agreed to by the Village Planning Board and the developer.  At least some of the Trustees have been vociferous in their opposition to any changes from here on out, and that could mean the 'changes on paper' may not be approved.

Developer Eric Goetzmann returned to the Board of Trustees Monday to ask for what he called two minor changes to the PDA that could have two outcomes.  The first is that 12 individual water meters could be installed, rather than a single meter for the whole project.  Arrowhead Ventures Construction Manager Jim Bold said the difference in cost would be over $100,000 for the single meter versus a total of $3,000 for 12 individual ones.

"If you have a house, you want to know what kind of water you're using. There are  some using more water than you. You don't want to pay for it. We're trying to set up meters for  each one of these units," Developer Eric Goetzmann said.

The second outcome would be that each unit could be sold to individuals, rather than renting as the original plans set out to do.  The changes Goetzmann is asking for are to reduce the road frontage required for each unit in the current zoning, and buffers between units, which would have to be zero because the buildings are triplexes.  Without these changes it is not possible to subdivide the properties into 13 separate lots -- one each for each of the 12 units and the 13th being the roadway and the remainder of the overall property.

It is possible to go forward as rental units without these changes, and it is possible to keep the units for rental even if they have separate water meters.  The developer's goals are to reduce the cost of installing water meters, as well as to offer the properties for sale.

Separate from the Village deliberations is a Tompkins County PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) Increment Financing (PIF) agreement that is meant to encourage the development.  So far Arrowhead Ventures has received over a million dollars from the County, and there are more payments to come through 2027.  The money is supposed to be used specifically for the Lansing Meadows development.

"By my calculations, Arrowwood would have received $1,071,154 to date. And there is another $115,281 coming this year with the Town/County/School taxes," says Tompkins County Director of Assessment Jay Franklin.

The most vocal opponent has been Deputy Mayor Ronny Hardaway, who advocated Monday for making the property between the development's private road and Oakcrest Road a 'forever green' space, precluding Arrowhead Ventures from deciding in the future that they will put more buildings there.

"We have created so many new zones on that little piece of property that it's ridiculous," Hardaway said. "If we completely build that entire lot with residential units, it will look nothing like what was promised on the first drawing that was used to decide that this PDA would be there. It will look nothing like that. It's gone through a series of incremental changes to become what you want it to be. It is the obligation of the board of trustees within a PDA to say, this is what will be good for the village. Will it be good for the village to put more units on that property? Or will it be good for the village to make the front part of that property a green space that can be enjoyed by the people that are living on that property, because otherwise they do not live near any green spaces that are public."

Lansing MeadowsLansing Meadows is next to BJ's Wholesale Club. The development was a condition of building BJ's.

Bold and Goetzmann argued that the changes should be made in part because they don't actually change anything in terms of what is being built and how many people would live there.  They argued that home-ownership would be better for the Village because owners care about maintaining their property more than renters do.

"You know what, at the end of the day, I don't give a rat's ass whether it's subdivided or there's lots or whatever. I really don't care. But you should care because that's what makes a community and that's what makes the community better," Bold told the trustees.

Newly elected Trustee Simon Moll agreed, at least in part, with Hardaway.

"I'm fine with  owner occupied housing and the subdivision. I'm deciding, you know, it's still walk to amend the PDA so that nothing can be built on the other side. That doesn't preclude owner-occupied housing for the rest of it and a subdivision just that change to the local law. We'd make a second amendment that says that the front, the North area or that road has to be forever green space," Moll said.

But Bold has argued for weeks that any future development would be under the auspices of the Planning Board, pointing out that the Village already has power over what can be built there.

"So basically Simon, what you're saying is that, that in order to grant a subdivision you would like to take the power away from the Planning Board, (power) that they've already agreed to.  To say that the Trustees bumped the Planning Board and that that parcel becomes undevelopable. Because that's what you're saying. Is that correct?"

Moll replied, "Yes, because then you're basically saying that you'll be going to go back to the planning board for that. I don't want it to go back to the Planning Board, and I don't think the Planning Board wants you to go back to the Planning Board. So I don't know why it would matter that we took that off the table. Now it concerns me and sends off a red flag that we couldn't do that, but you don't want it."

After about an hour of discussion Mayor Donald Hartill said that Village Attorney William Troy should draft a revision of the PDA allowing for the two changes to the law.  That would trigger a public hearing before the law could be passed.  Planning Board Chair Lisa Scheelein was asked for her opinion, but she said she would prefer to make her remarks at the public hearing.

Troy said he would bring a draft to the next Trustee meeting on October 5th, at which time the Board can set a date for a public hearing.

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