March Planning & Economic Development Items for Circulation

The Planning and Economic Development Committee had a busy agenda in March and it included voting several items to “circulate,” which means we send a proposal out to the public for feedback. The proposal comes back to the committee the following month for further consideration. We’ve summarized those items below, but as always, they’re oversimplifications and you should refer to the full text for more information.

The next meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee will be at 6pm on Wednesday, April 13, so send us your feedback before then or show up at the meeting to speak during the public comment period.

Incentive Zoning for Affordable Housing
Many of us consider housing affordability the greatest quality of life challenge currently facing the city. The proposed ordinance provides incentives to induce the inclusion of affordable housing units in new residential and mixed-use developments within the city. Developers could also earn the benefits of the incentive by providing affordable units off-site, converting existing market-rate housing into affordable units, or paying a cash-in-lieu fee to fund affordable housing development.

The proposed incentives include the elimination of minimum parking requirements, an additional floor in height, and exemption from site plan review for zones that have established design guidelines (by some accounts the most attractive of the incentives).

Read the circulation memo and draft ordinance here.

Backyard Chickens
We are considering a two-year pilot program that would allow backyard chickens to be kept at 20 residences within the city. You’ve seen this ordinance before, but there are a few notable changes from the last time it was circulated:

  • A building permit is no longer required, lessening the administrative burden on city staff
  • Permit fee reduced to $35 from $70
  • No prohibition on slaughtering

For more background, you can refer to extensive media coverage over the past year. Then read the circulation memo and proposed ordinance.

Prohibiting Feeding of Waterfowl
To put it plainly, there’s a lot of goose poop in our parks. A working group chaired by Alderperson Josephine Martell and involving many stakeholders proposed a geese management plan that includes egg oiling, hazing, and implementing a no-feeding ordinance. It’s the prohibition against feeding geese that’s being circulated. The ordinance points out that feeding encourages geese to congregate in areas where people use parks and decreases fear of humans. Some bird enthusiasts consider human interaction a positive way to increase interest in protecting wildlife.

Read the circulation memo and proposed ordinance.

TMPUD Application: The Cherry Artspace
TMPUD is short for “Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development,” a special zone that would give Common Council more oversight on any potential development that happens on the Waterfront. The Waterfront is a critical area, and we want to make sure that future development fits with our comprehensive plan.

The first project up for review is a proposal for (from the linked memo) “a small, flexible, multidisciplinary arts space, at 102 Cherry Street in Ithaca’s industrial West End” called The Cherry Artspace. The Cherry Arts will feature productions of their own plays and also host music, dance, and opera performances; art exhibits and installations; film screenings; poetry and book readings; jam sessions; and other artistic uses.

See the application and associated memo here.

You may be missing a water bill

We’ve learned that a printing error prevented hundreds of city water bills from being mailed to residents in the first quarter of the year. The next time you receive a bill the city chamberlain will accept payment without penalty if you explain that you did not receive your last bill. Or call the city chamberlain at 607-274-6580 to check for outstanding bills.

March 2016 Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting

I’ll be chairing the March 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee this Wednesday, March 9th, at 6pm in Council Chambers. Here’s the agenda. A quick run down of the meeting:

Special Business:

  • Special Presentation: Chain Works Planned Unit Development Zone – another step in the complicated, multiphase redevelopment of the former Emerson facility on South Hill. Working with the Town of Ithaca, we have to create a “Planned Unit Development Zone” – basically a special tailor-made zone that will facilitate the project. See the agenda for more details.

Announcements, Updates, Reports:

  • IURA Consolidated Plan – we’re making a minor tweak to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s Consolidated Plan. This requires that Council be given “notice.” We’ll get an update from IURA staff.

Voting to send on to April Council meeting (Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 at 6pm in Council Chambers):

  • Brindley Street Bridge Replacement: Lead Agency Decision – We got a presentation on this last month and now it’s back for a vote. You know that little bridge near Trombley Tire and Auto that people use as a shortcut to get to Wegmans from West State Street? It’s in serious need of repair. The question is whether we want to rebuild the bridge in its current location or extend Taughannock Boulevard to create a new bridge over the Cayuga Inlet. The Planning Board and Board of Public Works have recommended that we support the Taughannock Boulevard extension. So basically we’ll be voting on whether to proceed with that proposal.
  • Six-Mile-Creek Watershed Conservation Easement – last year, the Common Council authorized funding to purchase watershed conservation easements upstream from our Water Treatement Plant. The idea is to protect our water supply. We are proposing to chip in $40,000 to aid in the acquisition of a property in the Town of Dryden. See agenda for more details.
  • Minor revisions to Planned Unit Development Ordinance – a minor change that make it will make it easier for Common Council to approve a Planned Unit Development for multiphase projects. See agenda for more info.

Voting to “circulate” (basically this means that we send a proposal out to the public for feedback; the proposal will come back to the committee next month for further consideration):

  • (TM)PUD Application: Cherry Street Arts Space  – TM PUD: sounds like the name of a Texas oilman. But really it’s short for “Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development,” a special zone that would give Common Council more oversight on any potential development that happens on the Waterfront. The Waterfront is a critical area, and we want to make sure that future development fits with our comprehensive plan. First project up for review? A proposal for an “Artspace” on Cherry Street. See agenda for more details.
  • Incentive Zoning for Affordable Housing – An important piece of legislation. As everyone knows, housing affordability is a big problem in Ithaca. We want to create zoning incentives to address the increasing shortage of lower-income workforce housing in the city. See the agenda for more info.
  • Waterfowl Ordinance – don’t feed the geese! As part of an overall geese management strategy, we are proposing to pass an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of waterfowl on city property. See agenda for more info.


  • Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program (CIITAP)
    – further adventures in our ongoing effort to reform the city’s tax abatement policy. This is a big, complicated issue, but we are getting closer to a resolution. See agenda for more info.
  • Backyard Chickens – the famous backyard chickens issue. We voted to circulate the proposal for a pilot program last month, but we wanted to update the committee about some new developments. See agenda for more info.

Again, here’s a link to the agenda. You can watch a live stream of the meeting here. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact me at Thanks!
– Seph



March 2016 Common Council Meeting

Apologies for this meeting preview’s late arrival. Common Council has its regular monthly meeting this Wednesday, March 2, 6pm in Council Chambers (3rd floor) at City Hall (108 E. Green Street). You can see the full agenda here. A guide to that agenda is below. Come out and tell us what you think about the agenda items or any other, say, national headline-making issue facing the city.

  • Public Art Commission – request that the requirement that 5 of its 7 members be city residents be reduced to 4 in order to help fill long-standing vacancies (p. 10)
  • 2016 Youth Bureau budget – Amendment in order to meet unexpected needs in the Big Brother Big Sister Program (pp. 11-12)
  • Community Arts Partnership – accept a grant to complete third round of electrical box murals (pp. 13-14)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program Grant – money from the new York State Department of Labor grant for various safety training (pp. 15-17)
  • Creating a waterfront “Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development” – Basically this would create a special “planned unit development” zone that would give Common Council more oversight on any potential development that happens on the Waterfront. The Waterfront is a critical area, and we want to make sure that future development fits with our comprehensive plan. See the agenda for more info. (pp.18-42)
  • Street Level Active Uses – a zoning change that would mandate “active uses” in ground-level storefronts on the Commons. Based on a similar requirement in Collegetown, the goal of this update is to maintain a vibrant downtown with retail, restaurants, and other publicly accessible uses. It came before Council in January, but was sent back to the Planning and Economic Development Committee in February for more clarification on just what we mean when we say “active use.” (pp. 43-45)
  • Add a Professional Standards Lieutenant to Police Department roster – “oversight of all Internal Affairs investigations and will oversee the Records Division, administrative sergeants, and associated civilian and administrative positions” (pp. 46-53)
  • Authorization to use City parkland for non-motorized watercraft rentals and boat storage racks – The goal here is to improve public access to water-based activities in the City. Proposed locations: Cass and Stewart Parks, the golf course (pp. 54-67)
  • City-County law enforcement consolidation study – First stage of application for grant funding to study the viability of consolidating City of Ithaca and Tompkins County law enforcement. The state is encouraging consolidation of services to save local taxpayers money. (pp. 68-69)
  • Unused trust funds – A move of miscellaneous funds that haven’t seen use in 10 or more years, originally earmarked for specific projects, into the City’s Operating Fund. The money would still be targeted toward its original intent, but consolidating them may ensure they get used appropriately. (pp. 70-72)
  • Security and Emergency Services Grant – Amend Police Department budget to spend New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services grant on overtime, staff development, and equipment: night vision helmets, spotting scopes, Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, portable mass notification system, personal protection equipment, throw phone and training (pp. 73-79)
  • Appointment of new City Chamberlain Current City Chamberlain Debbie Parsons is retiring. Deborah Whitney will be taking over the position. (pp. 80-81)
  • Fringe benefits for managerial staff – an update and clarification of benefits for City managerial employees(pp.82-88)
  • Appointment of GIAC director – County Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne has served as Interim Director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center since May of last year, following Marcia Fort’s retirement. The mayor is appointing her as the permanent director. (p. 89)