During their Oct. 9 meeting, the Planning and Economic Development Committee reviewed the Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.) for the Carpenter Business Park development.
The project has generally been met with community support, though there has been some back and forth about the future of the Ithaca Community Gardens and how it factors into the site. However, members of the committee had some concerns as to how the project will proceed in future.
Several of the committee members wanted to revise the PUD to ensure the affordable housing building on the site would definitely be built. Currently, the building is contingent upon winning a specialized grant. Members of the committee noted that Ithaca’s need for affordable housing has driven this make sure the building would be a part of the development, regardless of whether or not the financing comes through.
Committee member Cynthia Brock remarked that the purpose of a PUD is to go beyond the zoning requirements and state from the beginning what the public benefits of a development are. Planning Department Director JoAnn Cornish pointed out that if the development was looking to get a tax break through CIITAP, (Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program), one of the requirements is to have at least 20 percent of the development be affordable housing; with the affordable housing building making up 40 of the 215 total units, the project currently sits at 19.5 percent. The development will come back before the committee during their Nov. 13 meeting.
Committee member Laura Lewis wanted to know about what the developer, Whitham Planning and Design, was doing in terms of a traffic study. Designer Yamila Fournier informed Lewis that the traffic study will be done in conjunction with another Whitham Planning and Design project nearby, the City Harbor mixed use development, proposed for the Waterfront. Since both projects will increase the traffic on Route 13, the commissioned traffic study will look into how both projects will affect the already heavily trafficked corridor.
During a previous combined meeting of the Planning Board and Common Council, there have been some concerns expressed over the amount of parking spaces in the development. In a joint meeting of the two agencies on Planning Committee Chair Seph Murtagh, spoke about some of his concerns about the overall surface parking, a topic that's commonly a concern for aesthetic and space reasons.
“I realize that some amount of parking is necessary for residents and commercial uses, but a large surface parking lot was not the vision we had for this area when we approved the Waterfront zoning,” Murtagh said. “I'm also concerned about the parking directly in front of the building, where the retail uses are proposed. Many of the people I represent on Common Council won't be driving to this building; they will be walking or biking, and I think it's important to make sure that the space is inviting not just to cars, but to pedestrians and bicyclists as well.”
Murtagh did note, though, this was a project worth pursuing due to the addition of the affordable housing building, a permanent home for the community gardens, and a new downtown medical clinic. At the same meeting, Lewis also noted this development has worked to incorporate and address community concerns.
“This is an exciting development that will bring a medical facility downtown as well as much needed housing, of particular interest to me are the 42 units of affordable housing,” Lewis said. “The development team has done a good job of seeking input from residents. I believe you attended the presentation some months back at a Northside United meeting. I’m also very pleased with the agreement that’s been reached with the Community Gardens, making that space more secure into the future.”