News Tidbits 4/12/12: Ithaca Plots to Get Rid of its Lots

13 04 2012


So, Ithaca has a lot of things going for it…and some things that aren’t. One of the unfortunate aspects of being a small city with a large university and a medium-sized college is that a lot of the local land is owned by said institutions, making it tax exempt. In fact, the proportion of tax exempt parcels in the city is right around 60.82 percent, 83.1 percent of which is owned by Cornell. So, this often results in a tight budget situation (Cornell, to its credit, has a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement that pays the city $1.1 million annually, or about 4.5% of the tax value of its holdings; Ithaca College, at last check, pays jack squat). As one might imagine, this is a huge source of controversy, more than enough to merit discussion in a future entry. Anyway, this year, like many, Ithaca is looking at a deficit, to the tune of $3 million. To alleviate some of this burden, the city hopes to sell some of its unused property (at least $120,000 worth) to put it back on the tax roll and hope that someone redevelops it, for further benefit to the community and the city’s bottom line. This entry takes a look at the properties.

First off, the process on how to get rid of the properties has been, for lack of a better word, a clusterf**k. Two parcels have been cleared for sale, since there are no major environmental issues – 213-15 Spencer Street, and 321 Elmira Road.


213-15 Spencer Street is a 0.47 acre property with a value of $124,000. The property is planned to be transferred to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA), which then sells the property for some value to an interested buyer, which in this case looks to be INHS, the local real estate development NPO. In sum, probably going to be developed for an INHS house.

321 Elmira Road is a 0.40 acre property with an assessed value of $189,000, probably because it’s in the middle of the rapidly developing big-box chain district in the southwestern part of the city. The sale of this property will be done via auction with sale to the highest bidder. At 0.40 acres (17,400 sq ft, not including zoning restrictions), don’t expect development here to me more than a small chain store of some variety…if anything at all, given drainage issues on the site.

Cherry Street parcel 100.-2-1.2 (i.e. 300 block). Is an 8.25 acre property in an industrial park with an assessed value of $825,000. This property is tied up in red tape due to some wetland on the south side of the property, but once those 2.25 acres have been subdivided off, the other 6 acres will be given to IURA, to be sold to an entity that will provide “commercial development”, if it gets redeveloped at all (some are calling for no sale due to the sensitive nature of the neighboring wetlands).

Given the tax rate, if all three were sold and assessed at current value (saying Cherry Street’s 6 acres are $600,000 for the sake of argument), you’d get about $32,000 in property tax, not to mention the one-time revenue of the sale itself. All in all, these sales aren’t really anything special, but it will be interesting to see what gets proposed for the Elmira Road and Cherry Street properties if the sales are ever completed.



3 responses

4 06 2012
Mayor Myrick: Tiger Got Your Tongue?

[…] Cornell University has a reliable funding partner of city projects. Although the university holds 87 percent of the city’s tax-exempt property, the school pays the city just $1.1 million each year […]

4 06 2012
B. C.

It’s worth noting the Elmira Street parcel was taken off the market. The Spencer Street property has been conferred to the IURA, and the Cherry Street property has yet to be sold.

29 01 2013
Mayor Myrick: Tiger Got Your Tongue? | The Ithaca Independent

[…] Cornell University has a reliable funding partner of city projects. Although the university holds 87 percent of the city’s tax-exempt property, the school pays the city just $1.1 million each year […]

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