News Tidbits 3/5/16: Here Comes the Papierkrieg

5 03 2016

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1. Let’s start off with something that led to a couple of worked up messages and emails to the Voice inbox – a potentially controversial revision to the Chapter House proposal that would replace the north eave of the building with a wall (bottom image). In the documentation, there’s no written explanation as to why the change is being requested from the approved plan (top image); but I wonder if it has to do with fire safety regulations or zoning issues between the Chapter House and the rebuild being prepared for 406 Stewart next door. Architect Jason Demarest is working on both projects for their respective owners (400-404 Stewart’s Sebastian Mascaro and 406 Stewart’s Jim Goldman), so he’ll be representing both projects at the Landmarks meeting next Tuesday the 8th at 5:30 PM. Also on the agenda are a couple of minor renovations, discussion about potential work to The Nines at 311 College Avenue, and discussion of an expansion to the East Hill Historic District.  This might just be for the Orchard Place properties that are locally historic but not nationally recognized, but we’ll find out for certain next week.

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2. Some of your might be wondering what happened with the 902 Dryden vote. Well, the vote still has yet to be taken. Moldern Living Rentals was still work on the last details of the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan for runoff (SWPPP), so the town of Dryden won’t be taking a vote until their March meeting, which has yet to be posted to their website (most likely it’s Thursday the 10th, or Thursday the 17th). The next-door neighbors still took time out to call the 40% downsized project a travesty and that it wasn’t shown in the 2012 Comprehensive Plan. Veering into editorial territory, my original comment from last month still stands:

“[A] master plan is not an exact thing; if it shows for three sets of five townhouses on a parcel, that’s not what may necessarily may happen. It just indicates the kind of density and scale of development the plan deems appropriate. 902 Dryden isn’t drawn on the master plan, but the plan welcomes the idea of townhouses on Forest Home Drive, which 902 abuts. So a vote in favor of the 8 new townhouses is, indirectly, a vote of support in the Varna Master Plan.”

I would give more weight to Todd Bittner’s objective concerns about stormwater than subjective comments of character, especially when they’re from someone who said they were disgusted by the thought of rentals. When Bittner checks out the revised SWPPP, if it looks acceptable, I think the project should be approved.

On another note, 1401 Dryden, the Storage Squad project (pictured above), seems to have lost a lot of its charm after getting caught in red tape last fall. The owners had to squeeze into a smaller area to satisfy the revised, expensive SWPPP. They’re hoping to hide most of it with landscaping.

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3. Just a quick update on the Travis Hyde Properties Old Library proposal. The ILPC and Planning Board had their joint meeting, project team partners HOLT Architects and TWMLA landscape architects have incorporated their comments, and here is the current product. Sorry, no renderings, just site plans. Previous plan here. Overall, the site layout hasn’t changed too much, a courtyard and green space will be next to the DeWitt Park Inn, and the building is set back to maintain rhythm with its neighbors. The exterior is supposed to have more projections and recesses, the top floor set back 6 feet, and incorporation of balconies on the upper floors (not sure how this will affect the plan for the inverted roof). Unit count is 21 1-bedroom, 24 2-bedroom, and 9 3-bedroom, 54 instead of the original 60 (39 1-bedroom, 21 2-bedroom). The addition of 3-bedrooms is surprising for senior apartments; from what I’ve been told, typically the large majority of demand is with 1 and 2-bedroom units. The Planning Board and ILPC have another shared meeting at City Hall on the 8th.

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4. The Chain Works review process is chugging along. At its meeting on the 8th, the Planning Board’s special meeting will decide whether the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement is ready for public review (not expected to be controversial). Then on the 9th, Cornish et al. will be giving a report to the Common Council’s Planning Committee about the timeline and current status. Another staff progress report will be presented at the Planning Board meeting on the 22nd, and the next day on the 23rd, the city CC and town board Planning Committees will meet review proposed draft PUD zoning for the massive mixed-use project. With adequacy being agreed upon, the project can begin project review 15 or so days later; first public meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 29th.

The city just uploaded the comments of reviewers on the DGEIS – most are relevant, some are pretty good suggestions and critiques. Then there’s “Reviewer 3”, most of whom’s comments were put aside as they’re not relevant to adequacy. Those are but a preview of the potential flare-ups to expect at the public meeting.

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5. Stumbled on this by chance, but it seems to verify initial suspicions from a few months back; a project proposal goes with the sale of multiple parcels of land totaling 9.2 acres off Park Lane and Slaterville Road in the town of Ithaca. The property, for sale at $995,000, is being marketed by Carol Bushberg Real Estate, which doesn’t have the render on their listing page or their Youtube video, but they do on facebook. The conveyed plans call for a 26-lot subdivision, and given the proposed lot lines, it doesn’t look like it would be affected by the town’s moratorium on 2-unit structures, because each unit has its own lot even though some of them share a wall. It also meshes with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which calls for 2-4 units per acre in this area (in the site plan, it’s just under 3 per acre). So to all you would-be home developers, here’s an opportunity.

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6. Speaking of the 2-unit moratorium in the town of Ithaca, it looks like that’s going forward to the Town Board to schedule a public hearing. The Planning Committee decided it was a good idea. The documentation says it would last at least a year, by which time the town hopes to have its new form-based, anti-student special zoning in place. Editorializing again, I still oppose this proposed law not because of the issue with low-end student housing, but because it’s too broad, affecting the whole town. The last 2-unit approved in Ithaca town wasn’t a student special – it was a 3-bedroom house with an accessory 1-bedroom apartment off Calkins Road. The husband and wife building the house will be living in the larger unit. I don’t think the whole town should be subject to a law that’s only been written to address a South Hill issue (the law’s language claims it’s a concern in East Ithaca as well, but I haven’t seen or heard of a new student-oriented rental in East Ithaca in at least the past few years). Anyway, whether for or against it, comments can be sent to Town Clerk at townclerk@town.ithaca.ny.us. The town meeting will be at the town hall on Monday the 7th at 5:30.

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7. Here’s a preview of next week’s mid-week post: A look at some of the affordable housing proposals and plans that applied to the city for grant funding this year. INHS applied for their owner-occupied townhouses, the Boggs/ Fernández proposal for 402 South Cayuga is there, Habitat’s duplex, 304 Hector, and a new plan by a private citizen for an owner-occupied affordable duplex behind the house at 622 Center Street in the South Side neighborhood. Keep an eye out for that Monday night or Tuesday morning.

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8. From the other news outlets now; the Times is reporting that the sketch plan for the Maguire auto dealership proposal for the Carpenter Business Park actually had a warm reception from the Planning Board. In particular, board stalwart John Schroeder was impressed with the sidewalk along 13 (which would help transition the Waterfront and nearby environs to mixed-use) and public amenities. The board is cognizant of the site’s issues and the city’s hopes for the area, so those do play into the thought process – perhaps part of it is that Maguire’s jobs and features could work as a draw for mixed-use development of nearby parcels that don’t have so many issues. The board’s role stops at this point, with the just passed TM-PUD now front and center – unless Common Council okays the project, it won’t be back again. But Maguire did ask for a letter of support if the board was willing; we’ll see.

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9. Meanwhile, the Journal is reporting that Texas Roadhouse will be opening May 23rd. No doubt the relatively dry and mild winter helped keep this project moving along (February construction update here). The 7,163 SF restaurant expects to hire 170 to 200 employees, of which 80 will be full time. That number astounds me just a bit because I worked at a steakhouse in high school, and although we were maybe half the square footage, we only had a staff of about 40. Even in Ithaca’s crowded restaurant scene, there aren’t many options for the red meat lovers that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and chances are good this will appeal to a different crowd than most, and be something of a draw from the nearby rural areas. Best of luck to them and their staff.

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10. Let’s wrap this up with House of the Week. Quick update on Zac Boggs and Isabel Fernández’s 201 West Clinton Street carriage house. Fully shetathed (Huber ZIP system panels), fully roofed and shingled, and fully fitted with windows, the exterior work left will focus on exterior siding attachment and refinishing the original 1960s garage to match the historically-inspired vertical addition. The exterior calls for sawn board-and-batten wood fitting, though it’s unclear if it will be unpainted wood, or painted yellow. The 1 bedroom, 520 SF space looks like it could be ready for occupancy by late spring.