2nd Ward News – April 2016

2nd WARD NEWS – APRIL 2016

This I saw on an April day:
Warm rain spilt from a sun-lined cloud,
A sky-flung wave of gold at evening,
And a cock pheasant treading a dusty path
Shy and proud.

And this I found in an April field:
A new white calf in the sun at noon,
A flash of blue in a cool moss bank,
And tips of tulips promising flowers
To a blue-winged loon.

And this I tried to understand
As I scrubbed the rust from my brightening plow:
The movement of seed in furrowed earth,
And a blackbird whistling sweet and clear
From a green-sprayed bough.

— “In April,” by James Hearst

We made it! Welcome to spring, Ithaca. Things have been busy lately on Common Council. We have a packed agenda for May. As always, if you have questions about anything, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Here’s some news from the month that might be of interest to 2nd ward folks:

HOUSING REFUGEES

We had a really interesting presentation from Catholic Charities at our April Council meeting about a plan to resettle refugees in Tompkins County. This got a lot of attention last fall after the Mayor made a statement on his Facebook page pledging to welcome Syrian refugees to Ithaca. Since then, Catholic Charities have been working on a plan to resettle refugees from war-torn countries in our community. Here’s a nice Ithaca Journal article on their efforts. 

CHIEF OF STAFF

The City of Ithaca has a new Chief of Staff, and he’s a familiar face to many. Dan Cogan served on the Common Council for ten years, and he is a partner at Taitem Engineering. We had an impressive selection of candidates to choose from for this position, and Dan definitely stood out. I think he’s an excellent choice, and I’m confident he’ll do a great job managing the day-to-day operations at City Hall. Please join me in welcoming him aboard!

PARKING UPDATE

As we all know, the transition to the new parking machines has been, ahem, a bit rough. In particular, seniors have really struggled with the new technology, and it’s causing some people to avoid coming downtown, which obviously is not great for local businesses. So we’re making some changes.

For starters, this spring we’ll be in installing more meters. That will help prevent people from having to walk long distances or cross the street to use them. We’re also launching a public education campaign to better inform people about the new technology (something, honestly, we should have done from the beginning).

Finally, we’re also rolling out a new hang-tag system as a supplement to the pay stations and Parkmobile. You’ll be able to purchase pre-paid tags in locations around the city and hang them from your mirror. Merchants will also be able to purchase tags and give them to loyal customers to encourage repeat business. Here’s an Ithaca Journal article about the new system.

401 LAKE STREET HOUSE

Not in the 2nd ward, but an issue that’s drawn some public attention. We’re trying to figure out what to do with a little vacant house next to Ithaca Falls. The City acquired the property through tax foreclosure last year. We kept it out of the public auction because there were differing opinions about what to do with it. It’s in bad shape, but still salvageable. It’s also adjacent to the Ithaca Falls Natural Area, leading some – including the City’s own Natural Areas Commission – to conclude that we should demolish the house and fold the parcel into the Natural Area.

There are good arguments on both sides. The selling camp argues that we need housing, and of course, we never want to forgo tax revenue if we can help it. The demolish camp, on the other hand, argues that the gorge is an environmentally sensitive site, and the falls are an icon and tourist destination. A private residence might not be the most appropriate use here.

We were supposed to vote on this May, but we’ve pushed it to our June Council meeting because we’ll be missing two Council members in May and we want this to be a full discussion. So we have the next month to gather public input. If you have opinions about this, please do get in touch!

STREETS ALIVE

Last minute reminder about Streets Alive: it’s Sunday, May 1st, from 1-5 pm. Come on out to walk, bike, roll, dance, play and shmooze in the streets, North Cayuga & West Court. There’s also “Beats Alive” in front of GIAC, so don’t miss that! See you all there!

Until next month,

Seph

April 2016 City Administration Committee Meeting

This month’s City Administration (CA) Committee meeting will be chaired by Donna Fleming in Deb Mohlenhoff’s absence this Wednesday, April 20 at 6pm in Council Chambers.

As always, a very high level and incomplete overview of the items under consideration follows. Please refer to the full agenda for details on anything that interests you.

Consent Agenda
A consent agenda packages routine and non-controversial items not requiring discussion or independent action as one agenda item. This month’s CA consent agenda includes adding 2 Program Leader positions to GIAC’s roster, a small adjustment to the Youth Bureau budget to accept a grant, and the purchase of a Fire Police vehicle to carry traffic control equipment.

City Administration, Human Resources, and Policy
Included in the mayor’s January State of the City address was a call to improve the effectiveness of the boards and committees that work hard to tackle all manner of city issues from police oversight to shade trees. The committee will consider a resolution to form a Boards and Committees Restructuring Working Group that will explore options for restructuring the City’s boards and committees to better serve the public.

Finance, Budget, and Appropriations
A bunch of resolutions to:

  • fund the demolition and removal of the vacant structure at 401 Lake Street (by Ithaca Falls); the property is now city-owned and Council will be deciding what to do with it (demolish the house to use the property as natural space, sell it off, etc.)
  • fund the construction and installation of 5 boat storage racks at a total of 4 locations within Stewart and Cass Parks
  • approve the assessment of several sections of sidewalk constructed on Cornell St. and Hancock St. over the past few years for the purpose of splitting the cost of constructing those sidewalks between adjacent landowners and the Sidewalk Improvement District program
  • collaborate with Tompkins County to fund hydrilla eradication
  • provide up to $36,000 for the construction of a length of sanitary sewer main along South Hill Trail that tends to overflow during heavy rain
  • provide up to $236,000 for replacing 120 year old water and sewer mains on the 200 Block of Dryden Road while other infrastructure updates in the area are being performed
  • use $927,667 of the water treatment plant’s contingency funding and issue $272,333 in bonds to replace a 113 year old clearwell (where filtered water is stored) that cannot be sealed or relined as part of the new water treatment plant project
  • contribute $90,852.60 to make improvements at the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • accept the terms of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to fund firefighter positions at Ithaca Fire Department
  • establish a capital project to accept funds from a grant for Ithaca Fire Department rescue equipment

CA is pretty busy this month! Contact the members of the City Administration Committee with any thoughts you have.

April 2016 Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting

I’ll be chairing the April 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee this Wednesday, April 13, at 6pm in Council Chambers. Here’s the agenda. A quick run down of the meeting:

Special Business:

  • We’re holding two public hearings, the first on Incentive Zoning for Affordable Housing, the second on the Cherry Street Art Space. See below for more information on both of these topics. If you’d like to speak during these public hearings, I would arrive at 6pm sharp.

Announcements, Updates, Reports:

Discussion:

  • Incentive Zoning for Affordable Housing – We’re considering a new tool to encourage more affordable housing in the city, called ‘incentive zoning.” Under this proposal, developers who are building new housing in the city could take advantage of certain incentives – such as an additional floor of height, elimination of minimum parking requirements, or an expedited site plan review process – in exchange for including a certain percentage of affordable housing units in their project or making a contribution to a fund that could support affordable housing projects throughout the city. See here for more info.

Voting to send on to May Council meeting (Wednesday, May 4th, 2016 at 6pm in Council Chambers):

  • Public Art Commission Mural – we’re approving a new mural for the Water and Sewer building on First Street. See agenda packet for more info.
  • (TM)PUD Application: Cherry Street Arts Space  – Earlier this year the Common Council created a “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.
  • Resolution to New York State concerning property taxes on resale restricted homes – When determining the assessed value of a property, New York State does not take into account the resale restrictions of property participating in community land trusts. The community land trust model keeps home prices low, but owners of those homes bear a high property tax burden. We are considering a resolution urging New York State to change the tax law.
  • 401 Lake Street: consideration of NAC recommendation – The City of Ithaca acquired this property near Ithaca Falls through tax foreclosure proceedings in 2015, and now we have to figure out what to do with it. The Natural Areas Commission has recommended demolishing the building, rezoning the parcel, and including it in the Ithaca Falls Natural Area. We’ll be considering this recommendation.
  • Proposal to Reduce Cell Tower Fall Zone – the city has received a request to reduce our cell tower fall zone to make room for a development on South Hill. Currently, the fall zone is twice the height of the tower. It appears this might be higher than is standard practice in other cities. The question is whether we want to reduce it. See the agenda for more info.
  • Waterfowl Ordinance – 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.

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

 

 

 

Design a Logo for Ithaca’s Park System!

The City of Ithaca Parks Commission is inviting community members to submit designs for a new logo for the City’s parks system. The Parks Commission seeks a logo that reflects the natural beauty of the parks, the recreational opportunities that they offer, and the sense of community that they help create. The selected logo will be used on signage, park information, and the City website.

See the request for proposal for more information and the application form.

2nd ward news – March 2016

2nd WARD NEWS – MARCH 2016

Blue through the window burns the twilight;
Heavy, through the trees, blows the warm south wind.
Glistening, against the chill, gray sky light,
Wet, black branches are barred and entwined.

Sodden and spongy, the scarce-green grass plot
Dents into pools where a foot has been.
Puddles lie spilt in the road a mass, not
Of water, but steel, with its cold, hard sheen.

Faint fades the fire on the hearth, its embers
Scattering wide at a stronger gust.
Above, the weathercock groans, but remembers
Creaking, to turn, in its centuried rust.

Dying, forlorn, in dreary sorrow,
Wrapping the mists round her withering form,
Day sinks down; and in darkness to-morrow
Travails to birth in the womb of the storm.

— Amy Lowell, “March Evening”

Hello 2nd warders – hope your March went well! Spring is here at last. Not a huge amount to report this month. The Planning and Economic Development committee of Common Council, where Ducson and I both serve, had a pretty busy agenda in March. You’ll find a summary of those issues below, as well as some news about a few community projects. If you have any feedback, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

INCENTIVE ZONING FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING

As we all know, housing affordability is a really serious issue in Ithaca. It affects all income levels, but it is particularly bad for workers who earn less than median income. In order to combat the shortage of affordable housing, we’re proposing the creation of a new tool called “incentive zoning” to try to encourage the inclusion of affordable housing units in new residential and mixed-use developments in the city.

Under this proposal, developers who are building new housing in the city could take advantage of certain incentives, such as an additional floor of height, elimination of minimum parking requirements, or an expedited site plan review process, in exchange for including a certain number of affordable housing units in their project. Developers could also take advantage of the incentives 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. You can read the circulation memo and draft ordinance here.

PROHIBITING FEEDING OF WATERFOWL

To put it plainly, we have 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. You can read the circulation memo and the proposed ordinance.

BACKYARD CHICKENS

If you’ve followed this newsletter, you know that we’re 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.

CITIZEN PRUNERS

Interesting in learning about pruning trees and shrubs? If so, Cooperative Extension and the City of Ithaca have a volunteer program that will help you develop pruning skills. The Citizen Pruner volunteer program has been operating in the city since 1990. Classroom training takes place over 3 sessions in April followed by hands-on experience that volunteers gain weekly work sessions throughout the summer. Volunteers are free to come each week or as time permits. Staff from CCE and the City are always on hand during work sessions to help guide volunteers in making pruning decisions.

To register for the classes and learn more about the Citizen Pruner program, call Cooperative Extension at 607-272-2292 or email Monika Roth at mr55@cornell.edu. Classes are open to the public regardless of whether you choose to volunteer.

ART IN THE AIR

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance is looking to liven up the banners hanging on the Commons. They’re seeking proposals from artists for new banner designs. If you’re an artist, or you know an artist, you might want to check this out.

CITIZENS POLICE ACADEMY

Ithaca Police Department will be hosting a Citizens Police Academy from April 6th, 2016 through May 25th, 2016. The goal of the eight-week long IPD Citizens Police Academy is to create a better understanding of the daily activities of police officers who serve in the Ithaca community, to strengthen the relationships with the community and the officers, and to enhance the police services that are provided to the Ithaca community.

The course is a combination of lecture and interactive activities which will give a firsthand look at the department’s functions, resources, and programs. Some topics that will be included are: SWAT and Critical Incident Negotiations Team operations, K9 Team, interactive reality-based scenarios, bicycle patrols, traffic enforcement, officer safety and defensive tactics, police and patrol operations, and narcotics identification. Most of the Citizens Police Academy classes will be held at the Ithaca Police Department. The program will be limited to 20 attendees and preference will be given to those who live or work in Tompkins County. Participation in the program is FREE, and graduates will be issued a graduation certificate. Acceptance into the program is subject to a check of the applicant’s background and references. Applications are due by 3:00 pm Friday, March 25, 2016. Applications can be mailed to or dropped off at the Ithaca Police Department, 120 East Clinton Street, Ithaca, NY 14850. Applications as well as additional information on the IPD Citizens Police Academy can be found here.

That’s about it for March, folks. As always don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions, comments, concerns. Until next month,

Seph