The Lansing village board meeting of Monday December 19 was unusually well attended. A group of residents of the Dart Rd- Northwoods area of the village presented a petition requesting the village to designate Lansing Greenway as Edelman Park.
In what appeared to be the latest move by residents opposed to the building of a 65 unit mixed-income housing development in their neighborhood, the petition drive netted 146 signatures and made a bow to the Edelmans, who donated the properties to the village.
The petition, which was presented by William Shang of Coventry Walk, reads in part: “We, the undersigned Village of Lansing community members, request that the Village of Lansing Board of Trustees pass requisite legislation to designate two parcels of land known as 46.1-7-99.1 and 46.1-7-100 as a park. They include the stream that runs southwesterly behind northerly and westerly properties of Coventry Walk, and surrounding wooded area, including Lansing Greenway walking paths, that connect Coventry Walk to Churchill Dr. and Janivar Dr. neighborhood.”
The Lansing Reserve, which includes the 65 unit housing development, will require an access road. Northwoods Apartments’ management has made it clear that the access road will not be forthcoming from their end; leaving the only way open for the access road being the village parcels. If these parcels were indeed designated “forever wild,” as several residents said, that would preclude the development of a road.
“That village property has been there a long time,” remarked trustee Lynn Leopold. “And suddenly your passion for a park has come up when there’s a chance for development… Is this a way of protecting yourself from development?”
The village board went on to say that there was no intention on the part of the village to change the use of the Greenway; further, to designate a park requires an act of the state legislature. “Arbitrarily designating a park triggers a whole host of other things,” said Mayor Don Hartill. Hartill encouraged the residents to check the village’s website and read the documentation concerning the Lansing Reserve. At the moment, the village is hiring a consultant to determine the wisest development plan for the village. Until that project has been completed (estimated to be done in the next two months), he said, it made no sense to decide what to do with any parcel.
Changing tack, Shang asked, “Can you pass a resolution that it’s your intention to preserve it?”
“The engineers,” said Hartill, “are insistent that we provide connectivity. It’s a life and safety issue… The village is viewed as a very deep pocket. There’s going to be an accident; we are then legally liable for that.” Hartill and Leopold noted that there has been pressure on the village to solve the connectivity issue for nearly two decades.
Supporters of the Lansing Reserve spoke up. One was Jean McPheeters, Director of the Tompkins County Workforce Task Force. McPheeters cited a study that concluded there is a dire need for workers’ housing in Tompkins County. “Many businesses tell me how hard it is to get local workers,” she said.
Kara Taylor, who works at M & T Bank, said, “It definitely is an issue with our employees.”
Carol DiSanto, chairperson of Better Housing for Tompkins County, said she has worked in real estate for 30 years and found it far too common that people working in Tompkins County are spending “a majority of their paycheck” on gas to get to their jobs.
However, the residents were adamant that such housing does not need to be in their neighborhood. “That study,” said Yasamin Miller, “does not support the need for such housing here. It supports the need for this housing in the city of Ithaca.”
Ron Simoncini, spokesperson for Northwoods Apartments, said that if people needed housing they could rent at Northwoods. “You don’t want to drive so far to work? Come live with us.”
The petitioners suggested holding a referendum, but village attorney David Dubow said that would be legally and procedurally improper. Dubow went on to explain that the village was not under obligation to act as the petition requested. “They can’t be compelled to take action unless it’s a matter designated by New York State law, zoning for instance, that is appropriate for a referendum.”
“So there’s no way to go forward except the next election?” asked Shang. Shang pointed out that there were quite a few petitioners and said they probably represented a large bloc of the voting public. Hartill said they have had over 600 people turn out for a village vote.
At the end of the meeting Shang asked who was up for reelection next year; trustees John O’Neill and Julie Baker said they will be.
Moving on, the board began reviewing the list of consultants for the village development study. A change order for the BJ’s/senior housing development needed to be approved: the current law calls limits lights to 30 ft high, but in actuality the lights, with the base included, are higher than that. The board needs to change the residential development setbacks as well and adopt a local law reflecting the changes. At the village meeting on Thursday, January 10, at noon, there will be a public hearing for the law (Local Law A 2012) which will also have an updated map appended.
In the Mayor’s remarks at the conclusion of the meeting, Hartill noted drily: “Good news. We’ve used about a ton of salt on this year.” In the absence of snow, highway crews have been enabled to sit on their salt reserves. Normal usage for one winter is around 36,000 tons for Tompkins County; Lansing Village uses around 20,000.
Leopold said that chloride is one of the things that Bolton Point water plant finds “creeping up” in the elements they test for. “The lake already has elevated chloride levels,” she said, due to the presence of salt deposits. “What can we do? We have to use it,” she said.