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ImageAfter many hearings and much debate the Lansing Town Board approved the construction of soccer fields on land adjacent to The RINK for use by the Ithaca Youth Soccer Club.  The proposal to build the fields there has generated some controversy, and was twice denied a zoning use variance by the Lansing Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).  According to Town Attorney Guy Krogh that use is already allowed, but subject to a  special use permit as a not-for-profit private soccer club field.

"If a use within a zone is subject to allowed use by special use permit, then by law it is allowed in a zone," Krogh explained.  "It is not an unallowed use.  The special use permit just specifies that it is subject to restrictions that other permitted uses within the zone are not subject to."

"The only reason it went before the ZBA was because our past code officer made a poor decision in stating what should have happened," Councilman Bud Shattuck said.  "The applicants shouldn't have had to go through that process at all.  I understand that the ZBA did the right thing.  In each case they deliberated, and however they made their decision was the right things to do.  At the same time it's a moot point, because by right you can have these fields with conditions."

The soccer club will use Community Recreational Center (CRC, which includes The RINK and The FIELD) facilities, including their parking lot, bathrooms, and concessions stand.  While the Planning Board was split in its support for the project, members agreed on 11 restrictions that they recommended be enforced if the Town Board approved the special use permit.

ZBA member David Dittman explained that the board rejected the application both times because of overwhelming objections by neighbors.  He also asked why an existing field north of East Shore Circle isn't subject to a special use permit.

"It just seems to me we either have zoning laws, and we're going to enforce them, or we don't have zoning laws and we're not going to enforce them," he said.  "If you have them, then we should enforce them."

One neighbor, Dennis Read, offered qualified support for the fields, especially if the 11 restrictions were put in place.  Read also suggested a 12th restriction that would forbid buiding grandstands on the property.  Parents Sandi Dhimitri and David Parkins spoke in favor of building the fields.

"Yes, they generate some noise," Dhimitri said.  "I contend that it is no more noise than if you fill those fields with houses and children.  This is land that we can use to preserve an opportunity and a place for children to play a game.  To me it provides a way to use land in a positive way to benefit the community.  We're not talking about rabble rousing crowds from the English Premier League."

"The club wouldn't have to build any facilities," noted Ithaca Youth Soccer Club President Elliot Smith.  "The parking lot is already there.  the bathroom facilities are already there.  the concession stand is there.  So we would be able to contribute and cooperate with the CRC.  In terms of affordability, environmental impact, and neighborhood character there is no other place in Tompkins County that is as well suited for these fields."

The four board members present all expressed their support for the project.  Deputy Supervisor Connie Wilcox said that the Planning Board's restrictions tipped her in favor of the fields, addressing in large part the neighbors' concerns.  The conditions are:

  1. No lighting of any of the fields or facilities shall be permitted, nor shall scoreboards, PA systems or loudspeakers be used at any time.
  2. Buffering and screening for visual and sound-limiting purposes shall be planted as shown upon the site plan dated August 17, 2009, as drawn by T.G. Miller.
  3. Hours of operation shall be limited to between 9am and sunset.
  4. No commercial activity shall be permitted on the site in the use of the fields and facilities shall be restricted to club members and guests only, with such club members, per club rules, being limited to generally soccer players age 18 and under.
  5. All traffic is to be routed to the adjacent Community Recreational Center (CRC) site, with emergency access and entrances to be provided through the CRC property and to 1) have hammerhead turns around for emergency vehicles, and 2) be constructed of a hard surface such as compacted gravel so as to provide for emergency vehicle access both and each being in the location as shown upon the site plan.
  6. All parking to be on the CRC site per the site plan.
  7. Pedestrian access shall be by means of a footpath as shown on the site plan.  The foot path shall at all times be maintained in a safe condition.
  8. No public events may be held at the site.
  9. To the extent feasible fields shall be sited at least 600 feet from existing adjacent residences in the areas as approximately shown upon the site plan.
  10. All improvements, screenings, and buffering to be built, planted, and or installed as applicable, pursuant to the site plan and each and all of the same shall be continuously maintained and replaced as needed to help meet the goals of noise and site buffering.
  11. This special use permit shall expire in three years, being subject to renewal at that time.

The board approved the project unanimously.  While they considered restricting buildinggrandstands, they decided not to include it, reasoning that the club doesn't intend to build them anyway.

"Lansing is pretty well known throughout the County, and even the State, as a recreation haven for youth," said Councilman Bud Shattuck.  "This is another application of that.  The planning Board spent many hours looking at it.  The applicants have the support of The RINK and The FIELD consortium, which has been a stellar community asset."

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