A busy night at Planning Board saw one of the most prominent projects of the last year receive final approval, while another proposal continued to rankle locals.
The Planning Board has seen the last of Cornell University’s North Campus Residential Expansion (NCRE), while the proposed student housing development at 815 S. Aurora St. continued to receive criticism from South Hill residents fearing more students. Along with this, two new projects were brought before the board for a preliminary review.
The once highly contested NCRE was given final site plan approval, which passed 6 to 1, with Jack Elliot opposed. The project will bring 2,000 beds of undergrad housing to Cornell's North Campus, hopefully opening up some more off-campus housing for non-students. There was little else to discuss except for assurance that weekend construction would not be occurring and the route construction vehicles would be taking to access the site.
The Vecino Group’s Arthaus development, an affordable artistic housing project in the West End, was on the agenda but was removed at the last minute because they are waiting for the results of an air quality study.
The public’s comments were primarily centered on the proposed student housing development at 815 S. Aurora St.
Four South Hill residents spoke about the 815 S. Aurora St. project development wasn’t necessary and could struggle to maintain occupancy due to Ithaca College’s decline in enrollment for the upcoming fall semester. Brian Grout commented that he will no longer be eligible for solar energy if the building goes up. Since the building would eclipse his home, there would be several times a year when his home will be shrouded in the shadow of the building. Other comments pertained to the hazards of the nearby cell phone tower, particularly the ice that forms on it which could be hazardous to residents of the new building.
While it was taken off the agenda for the night, one resident came to speak about the Arthaus development, saying it is much too tall of a property to be on the waterfront. She is opposed to the building because of the exterior colors and the potential traffic problems the building could cause. Finally, she said the city shouldn’t be making way for so many mammoth structures that have a modern art feel to them. After this was the development at 815 S. Aurora St., which was presented by Noah Demarest of STREAM Collaborative and Charlie O’Connor of Visum Development/Modern Living Rentals.
Demarest began by speaking about the addition of a fire lane on the property that would be accessed via remote control. The control would be given to Ithaca Fire Chief Tom Parsons, who could gain access in the event a blaze should occur. Some questions the board had were about how there was only one parking spot allotted for each unit, though there are going to be over 150 bedrooms in the entire complex. Demarest and O’Connor have envisioned this property as one that will discourage students from using their cars so much, fitting in with some of the community's green goals. They were merely there for a project update, and will surely return for more dialog with the Planning Board.
Vision Credit Union is looking to expand its business and will be establishing a location at 410 Elmira Road. The new branch will not only have a 20-car parking lot for speedy banking needs, but will also include a 940-square-foot outdoor amphitheater. Board members questioned why the parking lot would be needed for a bank that would only have four to seven employees at a time. The developers responded by saying the remaining spaces would be for amphitheater goers and bank customers, with two spots designated for handicap parking. The board declared themselves as the project’s lead agent and is looking forward to the project’s progress in the coming meetings.
Noah Demarest returned to give the board a presentation about the Immaculate Conception redevelopment project at 320 W. Buffalo St. One of the criticisms from the board was that the porches on the new town-homes seemed vestigial. At the next Planning Board meeting, a public hearing will be held for people to speak about the project and allow the board to gather feedback.
Closing out the meeting was the Carpenter Business Park project which gave the board a preliminary presentation of the work they have done so far. Board Chair Rob Lewis said the affordable housing section of the building should be built with the same design and desire as the other residential buildings on the site. Board members inquired about spreading out the affordable housing building throughout the other two buildings instead of having a building that abuts a railroad and a wastewater treatment plant. The developers also spoke about how TCAT is interested in bringing a new bus stop to the site. This project will be back at future meetings to go through the site plan review process.