June 2016 Common Council

Ithaca’s Common Council meets Wednesday, June 1 at 6pm in Council Chambers at City Hall (108 E. Green Street). Go here to find the full agenda. You can watch us online live here or visit us in person at 6pm in Council Chambers at 108 E. Green Street.

A summary of the agenda follows.

Consent Agenda
A consent agenda packages routine and non-controversial items not requiring discussion or independent action as one agenda item. There’s only one item in month’s consent agenda: the elimination of the position of Financial Clerk once the current occupant retires this year and the addition of a Financial Management Assistant as part of a reorganization of the responsibilities of the financial function of the Department of Public Works.

City Administration Committee

  • Ithaca Welcomes Refugees – A resolution reaffirming the City’s commitment to accept and support refugees
  • Babe Ruth License Agreement – A resolution approving a license agreement with the Ithaca Babe Ruth League to use land within Cass Park to install a storage shed near a baseball field
  • Water and Sewer – A resolution authorizing $236,000 of bonds to pay for replacement of water and sewer mains on the 200 block of Dryden Road

Planning and Economic Development Committee

  • 2016 HUD Entitlement Action Plan – Approval of Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s plan for using U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) funding from the Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnership programs.
  • Collegetown Street Level Active Use – Collegetown already has an “active use” mandate, the goal of which is to maintain a vibrant urban area with retail, restaurants, and other publicly accessible uses. This just brings the Collegetown active use requirements in line with the one passed for the Commons area in March, which provides more flexibility in what gets deemed “active use”
  • Backyard Chickens – A two-year pilot program that would allow 20 residences within the city to keep up to 4 hens. Chances are you already know about this, so I’ll just point to extensive media coverage

Coming out of both committees were resolutions relating to 401 Lake Street. Copying from Seph’s 2nd Ward News piece on the issue:

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.

May 2016 Common Council

As I’m sure all you active citizens know, most things under consideration at our monthly Common Council meetings come from our two committees: City Administration and Planning & Economic Development. As you also surely know (since you read them all), Seph and I summarize the agendas of these committee meetings every month. The upshot is writing the Common Council agenda summary is mostly a cut-and-paste job, and yet I still fail to get them out in a timely manner. Apologies.

Go here to find the full agenda. You can watch us online live here or visit us in person at 6pm in Council Chambers at 108 E. Green Street.

Consent Agenda
A consent agenda packages routine and non-controversial items not requiring discussion or independent action as one agenda item. This month’s consent agenda includes

  • adding 2 Program Leader positions to GIAC’s roster
  • a small adjustment to the Youth Bureau budget to accept a grant
  • the purchase of a Fire Police vehicle to carry traffic control equipment
  • funding for the construction and installation of 5 boat storage racks at 4 locations within Stewart and Cass Parks
  • collaboration with Tompkins County Soil and Water District to fund hydrilla eradication
  • establish a capital project to accept funds from a grant for Ithaca Fire Department rescue equipment

City Administration Committee
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. Here’s recent media coverage on the subject.

Also coming out of the committee are resolutions to:

  • 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
  • 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

Planning & Economic Development Committee

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • (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.
  • 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. The intent is to avoid habituating geese to humans so they’re less likely to hang around commonly used areas of our parks. See agenda for more info.

Contact us if you have any questions!