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.

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.

Common Council January 2016 tl;dr Overview

I had my first council meeting on Wednesday and the relatively light agenda was a nice introduction to the duties of this governing body. Highlights of the meeting include (agenda here):

  • Many council members (including myself) expressed support for the basic premise of encouraging or requiring ground-level active use on the Commons, but were concerned about some of the language. A revised proposal will be sent back to the Planning & Economic Development Committee
  • We renewed an agreement between the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Ithaca Police Department to jointly staff and cooperate on the SWAT team
  • We approved $4.6 million of bonds for capital improvements (street construction/repair, more parking pay stations, Cass Park Ice Rink, and many other items; see the agenda)
  • I will be serving on the TCAT board

The main event, though, was the mayor’s State of the City address. The Ithaca Voice has already done a great job of summarizing his speech.

– Duc

P.S. Why do I keep signing my name on posts when WordPress clearly shows a byline? Seph and I share this page and for his sake I want to make it abundantly clear at the beginning and end when it’s me posting. Just in case I write something dumb.