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!

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.

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.

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 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)

February 2016 City Administration Committee Meeting

5th Ward Alderperson Deb Mohlenhoff chairs the City Administration Committee meeting this Wednesday, February 17th at 6pm in Council Chambers. Read the full agenda here. It’s not the most thrilling, I admit, but there’s still interesting goings-on with the police and a plan to allow boat rentals at city parks. A guide to the agenda follows:

  • 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. 2-8)
  • 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 (pp. 9-10)
  • Authorization to use City parkland for non-motorized watercraft rentals and boat storage racks to improve public access to water-based activities in the City. Proposed locations: Cass and Stewart Parks, golf course (pp. 11-24)
  • First stage of application for grant funding to study City-County law enforcement consolidation (pp. 25-26)
  • Unused money to City’s Operating Fund (p. 27)
  • Amend the 2016 Youth Bureau budget in order to meet unexpected needs in the Big Brother Big Sister Program (pp. 28-29)
  • Accept Community Arts Partnership grant to complete third round of electrical box murals (pp. 30-31)
  • Park Foundation funding for Sustainability Coordinator position (pp. 32-34)
  • 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. 35-37)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program Grant from the new York State Department of Labor grant for various safety training (pp. 38-40)
  • Appointment of new City Chamberlain (pp. 41-42)

-Duc