December 2017 Common Council Meeting

The last Common Council meeting of 2017 is at 6pm Wednesday, December 5 at Ithaca City Hall​. Topics include:

Pride of Ownership Awards

This will be the 20th Annual Pride of Ownership Awards, which recognizes owners of properties within the City of Ithaca who have developed projects or taken care of their properties in ways that enhance the physical appearance of city neighborhoods and commercial areas. The awards a joint project between the Ithaca Rotary Club and the City of Ithaca.

Restore New York Funding Application

The Restore New York’s Communities Initiative appropriates funding for projects that revitalize urban areas and stabilize neighborhoods. We’ll be voting to put forward two applications:

  • “100s West”, which seeks to rehabilitate 121 W. Martin Luther King Jr. St (where the Watershed now lives), 123 W. MLK Jr. St. (Ithaca Journal), and 108-114 W. Green Street (former McNeil Music)
  • Renovation of 310 W. MLK Jr. Street, the beautiful but dilapidated house to the right of Southern Tier AIDS Program

Authorizing Cornell University to close off Ezra’s Tunnel

This was recently covered in the New York Times by Cornell Sun reporter and Cornell University student Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs. Cornell University is offering to construct a barrier to the tunnel and hand over ownership to the city.

Mid-block crossing on West State/Martin Luther King Jr. Street

The Board of Public Works and Common Council have approved a major redesign of the West State/Martin Luther King Jr. Street corridor in the West End. One component of the project still requires Council approval, however: a mid-block crossing with traffic signal in the middle of the stretch between Floral Avenue and W. Seneca Street.

Adoption of “Rules of Procedure for City of Ithaca Advisory Commissions”

Voters in the City of Ithaca chose to support restructuring most of the City’s volunteer advisory boards and committees into 4 commissions. This month we be considering rules to define how the commissions conduct their business. Read the proposed rules starting on page 80 of the agenda.

Public Art

One is a continuation of the popular electrical box artwork project with the box at the intersection of E. State/MLK Street and Stewart Avenue. Another project under consideration is a rotating mural installation on the rear façade of a workshop at the Water & Sewer facilities on First Street. The artist will work with other artists to install new murals on a regular basis.

Finally, creative bike rack designs chosen via a contest are proposed for installation throughout the city. Many of them are relevant to their location, such as references to food by Restaurant Row or comedy and drama masks near Community School of Music and Arts

Appointment of Pete Tyler as Chief of Police

Mayor Svante Myrick has nominated Former Deputy Chief of Police and current Acting Chief of Police Pete Tyler to be the Ithaca Police Department’s next Chief of Police. Here’s a profile of Pete Tyler from earlier in the year and the mayor’s announcement of his decision.

Much more!

As always, there’s a lot more. Read the agenda and watch us online at ithacany.viebit.com. You can also email us at council@cityofithaca.org or come see us in Council Chambers at City Hall on Wednesday at 6pm.

November 2017 Common Council Meeting

Common Council meets 6pm Wednesday, November 1 at Ithaca City Hall​. Topics will include:

The Budget

Common Council’s proposed budget increases the tax rate from $12.04 to $12.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value, up 0.83%. The median homeowner will pay $21 more next year. Residents already suffer under a heavy burden of property taxes, but very frequently demand higher levels of service. So what did we add to the mayor’s budget?

  • Communications equipment for the fire department to replace decade old radios under a grant that requires we pay 20% of the cost
  • Water hose for the fire department to replace hose reaching its end of life
  • Building and Grounds supervisor for the Department of Public Works to oversee increasing demand for maintenance on aging facilities
  • Motor equipment mechanic helper for the Department of Public Works to absorb knowledge before staff retires and address increased workload
  • Two additional housing inspectors to handle the major backlog in housing inspections and prepare for upcoming retirements
  • Employee health and safety coordinator to address safety and risk management
  • Gorge ranger program in conjunction with the Town of Ithaca and Tompkins County to protect our natural areas
  • Enabling City Hall to accept credit card payments, flexibility and modernization that’s long overdue

See the Cornell Sun’s coverage of the budget here.

Moratorium on Infill Development on South Hill


The proposed South Hill Overlay District would restrict residential lots to one primary structure (say, a house or duplex). This was drafted in response to concerns from residents of South Hill that recent infill development is unattractive and tips the balance of a traditionally owner-occupied neighborhood towards too much student housing. Concerns with enacting the overlay district include restricting income potential for those who need a small rental to afford living in their primary residence and losing the benefits of infill development, which can increase density while preserving much of a neighborhood’s character.

You can find recent coverage of this issue at The Ithaca Voice.

Designation of the “Chacona Block” as a local landmark


Chacona Block is the name given to 411-415 College Avenue, two buildings with a common façade up in Collegetown that most residents recognize as the homes of Collegetown Bagels and Ruloff’s. It’s an iconic spot in large part due to the large patio adjacent to CTB. Student Agencies, the owner of the building and a non-profit organization that has provided entrepreneurial experience to Cornell students for over a century, asserts it can’t afford to bring the building up to modern safety and efficiency standards. They also feel they could better serve their students if they constructed a new building that rises to the maximum height allowed by zoning (6 stories compared to the existing 4). Historic Ithaca, a local preservation advocacy organization, asserts that the building has important history involving an immigrant business and was designed by a notable architect with significant work around the city.

The Ithaca Times has a nice writeup on this debate.

There is, of course, much more. Read the full agenda here and watch us online at ithacany.viebit.com. You can also email us at council@cityofithaca.org or come see us in Council Chambers at City Hall on Wednesday at 6pm.

September 2017 Common Council Meeting

Common Council meets 6pm Wednesday, September 6 at Ithaca City Hall​! Topics will include:

  • A public hearing on the 2018 sidewalk work plan
  • An ordinance to recognize the second Monday of October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”
    An update to fire code for addressing food truck safety
  • Reallocation of federal HOME funds from Lakeview to other projects
  • A statement in response to the events in Charlottesville
  • Public street art in intersections during Porchfest
  • Addressing the procedures for handling Council vacancies (Alderperson Martell resigned August 24 and will be sorely missed)

…and plenty more.

The full agenda is here. Watch the meeting here.

Open houses for major roadway improvements

A reminder that this Tuesday and Wednesday the city will be holding open houses for major roadway improvements: University Avenue and W. Martin Luther King Jr. (State) St.

University Avenue

The City of Ithaca will be hosting an open house regarding planned 2018 roadway improvements along University Avenue from Linn Street to Lake Street. All are invited to the Second Floor Conference Room at City Hall (108 E Green Street) on Tuesday, April 11, from 4 PM to 6 PM to provide feedback on several preliminary design alternatives being considered. The 3 design options from the consultant are below.

If you are not able to attend the open house or have questions regarding the project, you may contact the City Engineering office at 607-274-6545 or ehathaway@cityofithaca.org.

West Martin Luther King Jr. St

The City of Ithaca Engineering Office is soliciting public comment on a draft design report for the West Martin Luther King Jr. Street Corridor Enhancements project. The draft design report is posted below.  Written comments can be submitted to Tim Logue at TLogue@cityofithaca.org or mailed or hand delivered to the Engineering Office in City Hall, 108 East Green Street.  Comments will be accepted until April 30, 2017.

City staff and consulting engineers will also host a public open house style meeting for the project on Wednesday, April 12, 2016 from 4pm to 6pm in the second floor conference room of City Hall.  This open house will showcase two alternatives for the corridor that were developed based on the City’s grant application, a business group focus meeting held in December 2015 and a public meeting held in February 2016. A public questionnaire was also circulated that winter.

The study area covers the portion of West Martin Luther King Jr. Street (also known as West State Street or Route 79), from Floral Avenue (Rt 13A) to Taughannock Boulevard.  The proposed goals are to improve pedestrian conditions along the street, to improve options for pedestrians to cross the street, to enhance conditions for bicyclists, and to improve safety along the corridor.

For more information, please contact Tim Logue, Director of Engineering at tlogue@cityofithaca.org or (607) 274-6535.

There are several documents here, but the two alternatives are summarized here

The major differences are (thanks to Fernando de Aragón of Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council for the summary):

  • Alternative 1: Westbound on-street bike lane from Pete’s Grocery to Floral Ave, eastbound concrete-barriered multi-use path (pedestrian and cyclist) from Floral Ave to Mama Teresa’s.
  • Alternative 2: Westbound on-street bike lane from Taughannock Blvd to Floral Ave, eastbound on-street bike lane with expanded sidewalk space from Floral Ave to Mama Teresa’s

Main similarities:

  • One east-bound traffic lane will be removed
  • Landscaping and curb changes will make this dangerous intersection more accessible to everyone

City Boards/Committees Restructuring

Last year Common Council approved the formation of the Boards and Committees Restructuring Working Group, known more colloquially as the “Committee of Committees”, to propose a new structure for the various volunteer boards and committees that advise city staff and Common Council. These boards and committees include the Bicycle / Pedestrian Advisory Council, the Parks Commission, the Rental Housing Advisory Commission, and many others covering a wide range of topics.

The working group was tasked with reducing overlap, addressing issues not covered by existing boards/committees, improving the process, utilizing city resources more efficiently, better flow of ideas to Common Council, and other improvements.

The proposal is public now and you can find it here.

In short, the proposal redistributes 12 boards and committees to four “umbrella” commissions:

  • Mobility and Transportation
  • Community and Quality of Life
  • Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources
  • Public Safety and Information

Each commission has 7 voting members and a number of non-voting members serving as subject matter experts. Two Common Council liaisons will be appointed to each commission as non-voting members. Each commission will have permanently assigned city administrative and staff support.

There’s a lot more information in the proposal (again, right here). It’s a big change and we expect the public to have strong opinions on the matter. The proposal will be presented to Council on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, at 6:00 p.m. in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall, but there will not be a public comment period during this meeting. You can share your thoughts with us at council@cityofithaca.org, speak during public comment at the April 5 Common Council meeting, or speak at the April 19 City Administration Committee meeting. All meetings are at 6pm at City Hall.

November 2016 Common Council Meeting

Apologies for the late and rather brief agenda review. And I hope you’ll forgive me for not putting out an agenda summary at all last month.

Ithaca’s Common Council meets Wednesday, November 2 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 (note the new site) or visit us in person and speak during the public comment period.

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. On this list are:

  • acceptance of funds from Park Foundation for lighting at Wood Street Skate Park
  • update the Ithaca Youth Bureau budget to reflect grants received
  • funds for litigation and legal fees
  • Civil Service agreement with Ithaca City School District

City Administration Committee
This committee reviews financial and administrative issues pertaining to the city, including workforce environment, inter-governmental relations, and human resources. Items coming out of last month’s CA meeting include:

  • Budget – Read all about the proposed 2017 budget here. It’s fairly free of drama, reflecting steady city finances.
  • Tax rate – This provides the revenue to be spent in the aforementioned budget.
  • Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant budget
  • Sidewalk Improvement District budget and work plan

Planning and Economic Development Committee
This committee addresses city planning, housing, land use, zoning, historic preservation, and items pertaining to economic development in the city. Coming from this committee are:

  • Acceptance of grant funds to support Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) renovations and improvements to 98 units in 44 buildings in the City of Ithaca
  • Maguire. Most everyone I’ve talked to has been following this. From Seph’s latest newsletter:
     
    As I’m sure everyone is aware by now, Maguire, the local car company, wants to build a car dealership at Carpenter Business Park (off 3rd street near the Farmer’s Market, Community Gardens, and Wastewater Treatment plant.)
     
    Earlier this year the Common Council passed legislation that would require any proposed development in the waterfront to get approval from Common Council for a period of 18 months while the City works on new zoning for the area. Developers must submit an application that is reviewed by Council before they can proceed with the project.
     
    Maguire is going through that process right now. (You can find their application here). Earlier this month, they came to the Planning Committee of Common Council, which voted to reject their current proposal.
  • Redefine “mezzanine” and “story” in the City’s Zoning and Housing Standards Code to eliminate ambiguities
  • An endorsement of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s proposal for a carbon fee and dividend

 

September 2016 Common Council

Ithaca’s Common Council meets Wednesday, September 7 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 and speak during the public comment period.

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. On this list are:

  • acceptance of funds from Park Foundation and Smart Growth and Livable Communities for a project entitled “Building for Energy Efficiency: Developing New Construction Standards for Ithaca,” to conduct a comprehensive, collaborative examination of policy tools that Ithaca can use to incentivize or mandate green building standards for new construction
  • giving Housing Inspector Gary Checksfield the new title of Housing Code Supervisor
  • giving Code Inspector Mary Brenner the new title of Senior Code Inspector
  • approving the City of Ithaca Cable Access Oversight Committee’s budget recommendation for upgrading the PEGASYS (public access channels) studio to high definition

City Administration Committee
This committee reviews financial and administrative issues pertaining to the city, including workforce environment, inter-governmental relations, and human resources. Items coming out of last month’s CA meeting include:

  • approval of a capital project to resurface a portion of Route 13 and replacing two traffic lights on that road
  • approval of a capital project to repair or replace the retaining wall in the 400 block of East State (Martin Luther King, Jr.) Street; this is the wall by Gateway Commons, where The History Center is located
  • approval of a capital project to expand the Alex Haley Municipal Wading Pool (near GIAC)

Committee of the Whole
A committee of the whole, as you may have guessed, is a committee of Common Council comprising all members of Council. A Committee of the Whole was convened to use funds from an existing capital project to evaluate:

  • the feasibility, costs, and benefits of consolidating City Hall, Fire Station #9, Central Fire Station, and the Police Department, into one central campus to be located at the current location of the Central Fire Station
  • the possible consolidation of Water & Sewer and Streets & Facilities to one central facility

You can read more about this at The Ithaca Voice.

Planning and Economic Development Committee
This committee addresses city planning, housing, land use, zoning, historic preservation, and items pertaining to economic development in the city.

There’s just one item from the Planning and Economic Development committee this month: Adding diversity requirements for beneficiaries of the Community Investment Incentive Abatement Program (CIITAP) program. This would require that developers receiving a tax abatement join the Diversity Consortium of Tompkins County, establish strategies for improving diversity, report on progress and demographics, and more. You can read more about this at The Ithaca Voice.

Individual Member-Filed Resolutions
Members of Common Council can file their own resolutions. These two are the first we’ve seen this year:

  • Alderperson Brock – Resolution in support of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act, which would ensure that every woman who receives care or insurance through the federal government will have coverage for abortion services and prohibits political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care.
  • Alderperson Gearhart – Resolution to select artwork for a painted intersection at Auburn, W. Lewis, and Adams Streets:
    Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.13.35 PM

July 2016 Common Council

Ithaca’s Common Council meets Wednesday, July 6 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 and speak during the public comment period.

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. On this list are:

  • allowing Simeon’s (reopening soon!) and Mia to serve alcohol outdoors
  • amending the police department budget to account for SWAT training IPD hosted
  • approval to display names of donors to Cass Park Ice Rink’s renovations
  • easement for Chapter House reconstruction for installation of footers and awnings

City Administration Committee
This committee reviews financial and administrative issues pertaining to the city, including workforce environment, inter-governmental relations, and human resources. Items coming out of last month’s CA meeting include:

  • Modification of a $455,000 capital project for repair and refurbish of a pumper truck to increase funding to $555,000 and instead purchase a new pumper truck
  • Creation of a “capital project” (structure under which infrastructure projects are funded) from a NYSERDA grant to study feasibility of a nodal microgrid in the City
  • Labor contracts with city employees
  • Update on the request for proposals for the law enforcement consolidation study (an update was given to the Tompkins County legislature recently as well)

Planning and Economic Development Committee
This committee addresses city planning, housing, land use, zoning, historic preservation, and items pertaining to economic development in the city.

Just one item out of the Planning and Economic Development committee this month: an administrative change to the city’s agreement with the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency that will free up some time for IURA staff to develop a housing strategy for the City of Ithaca. More info in the packet.

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!