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lansingmeadows 202009

The Village of Lansing Board of Trustees again delayed action on two changes to the Lansing Meadows Planned Development Area (PDA) after a public hearing Monday. The development is part of a PDA that sets special zoning regulations for BJ's Wholesale Club, a senior housing project between BJ's and Oakcrest Road, and another small commercial lot. While Mayor Donald Hartill seemed anxious to put the changes to a vote after months of discussion and delays, Deputy Mayor Ronny Hardaway proposed an amendment to the proposition at the last minute that would minimally delay the vote for another two weeks.

"If you look at the early pictures it was a wonderful little neighborhood. It had trees. It had paths. It had roads. It had wetlands. It was going to have a bird sanctuary. Well, if we build it out to t total of ten buildings -- 30 units -- it's going to be edge to edge buildings with a road in the middle and a little strip of wetlands in the back," Hardaway said. "I don't have a preference one way or the other if the units are sold or rented. My primary concern is that the subdivision, if passed, allows for the same type of building with the same subdivision to be built on the rest of the property. By doing that we would be losing a significant poortion, if not most of the greenspace that the Village Planning Board and Board of Trustees thought that they were approving when they first started negotiating with the developers on this project."

A number of people weighed in during the public hearing, with most in favor of allowing the changes. Ithaca Y CEO Frank Towner said he is in favor of allowing the changes because homeowners could walk to the adjoining Y property. He said that people within a ten mile circle tend to comprise the largest number of Y members, and especially after devastating revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the development would provide new potential members who could easily walk to the facility. A real estate agent also supported the for sale option, saying there is a demand for units in that part of Tompkins County by people who want to own their own homes.

The two changes requested by Developer Eric Goetzmann (Arrowhead Ventures, LLC) and Construction Manager Jim Bold requested are both necessary before they can apply to subdivide the properties, and both necessitated because they want to subdivide each triplex into three individual tax map plots. Subdividing provides two benefits to the developers. First, they can sell individual units, rather than renting, and the second is that individual plots are required by the water commission in order for each unit to have its own water meter (which is also less costly than a single meter for the whole property).

Since a PDA is officially part of Village law, the Board of Trustees must approve or deny any changes to it. In this case the changes to the law would make it possible for Goetzmann to apply to the Planning Board to subdivide the development.

The changes are to reduce the minimum lot size from 10,000 square feet to 2,400 square feet (because of the size of the individual units), and to reduce the 75 foot minimum street frontage requirement to zero, because there is only the width of a wall between units in a triplex.

Goetzmann and Bold have argued that the requested adjustments to the PDA do not change the buildings physically, and that, indeed, four triplexes are already built. They point out that even if the changes are approved, the Planning Board would have the power to either grant the subdivisions, or not, and also to approve or not approve any additional building beyond the 18 units (6 triplexes) already approved.

But Village officials on both the Board of Trustees and the Planning Board have repeatedly argued that the myriad of changes to the PDA made over the past decade have been excessive to the point where the original 'walking neighborhood with cottage-style senior living, wetlands, and a bird sanctuary' is unrecognizable in the currently approved development. Some -- including Hardaway, who has become the most vocal opponent of further changes -- have said that while they are not opposed to the units being for sale, they are opposed to allowing any more changes to the PDA. A few of the most vocal have vehemently scolded Goetzmann in public meetings.

Trustee Simon Moll said he supports the changes and subdivision that would allow homeownership, but does not support any further development on the property beyond the already approved 18 units (six buildings). He said he would only vote yes if that condition could be included.

Trustee Randy Smith said he is in favor of the subdivision and letting the market decide whether or not the units can be sold. Trustee Pat O'Rourke agreed with Moll's position.

"I think 30 units is too much," she said.

Hartill asserted that future development and the actual subdivision is up to the Planning Board, not within the Board of Trustees' 'bailiwick'. But Hardaway proposed a subsidiary motion and insisted it be discussed before the vote.

"I want to move a subsidiary motion that we protect the greenspace within Area B (the residential portion). I want to discuss protecting the greenspace tonight, so I am putting forth a subsidiary motion to be discussed before we move forward on the main motion," he said.

After some discussion about legal procedure Village Attorney William Troy advised postponing the vote until the next meeting to allow the subsidiary motion to be discussed at the next meeting, giving time to give notice to the public that it would be on the agenda.

"The Board could say we are granting this, but we're also going to change the Lansing Meadows PDA to place an upper limit on how many residences there can be," Troy said. "You have that power."

Goetzmann tried to protest that restricting further development would constitute a major change to the PDA, but he was told that the public hearing was closed so it was not appropriate for him to speak.

"Without confirmation that the greenspace on this property is reclaimed and protected, I will vote no," Hardaway said.

Moll also said he would vote no unless Hardaway's amendment is discussed first. Hartill noted that a new public hearing is required at the next meeting.

The next Board of trustees meeting is scheduled for December 21st.

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