March 19, 2004

Planning Board meets, modifies Draft Comprehensive Plan

This month's Planning Board meeting had a quorum, unlike last month's meeting, and was able to move forward with changes to the plan, though only two members of the public (myself included) were in attendance.

Planning Board meeting
Four planning board members, Dryden's Environmental Planner, and two people attended the meeting.

The Board started with discussion about training possibilities, some on storm water management and others on planning board duties and SEQR review, and talked about the possibility of an April 29th meeting that the County wants to have to discuss the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan, currently in progress. They also discussed the recent conversion of the Conservation Advisory Council into a Conservation Advisory Board and voted to send subdivision plans on Wood Road and Yellow Barn Road to the CAB for their input.

The Board then picked up on conversations from the last meeting, taking action on ideas that had been discussed before but couldn't be voted on.

After much discussion on the hamlet zoning and how to increase density without changing the hamlets suddenly (in which I pointed out that Varna's population would roughly quadruple, to 2400, if built out the way the current draft of the plan is written) the Board adopted David Weinstein's proposed changes to the hamlet section, with some changes based on conversation at the last meeting, notably:

  • A suggestion that zoning be written to put the onus on developers who want to build multi-unit projects to demonstrate that it does fit in the community rather than requiring the board to demonstrate that it doesn't fit
  • The use of "floating zones" that permit high-density development but require it to be scattered through the hamlet area
  • A few paragraphs will be added to an earlier section of the document encouraging the town to pursue affordable housing through public-private partnerships

These changes to the plan will still allow for increased density in the hamlet areas, but should give the Town more control over how it happens.

There was also discussion about how to encourage owner-occupied housing, though monitoring that is difficult and some recent experiments, notably on Sanctuary Drive in the Town of Ithaca and on Observatory Drive above Varna, seem to be having large problems remaining owner-occupied.

In reponse to concerns that the area south of Mott Road was a wetland, the board extended suburban residential area to the south side of the road, and planned to use the wetland area as a buffer between that residential and commercial area further south.

Planning Board members and planner George Frantz modify plans for Mott Road area
Planning Board members and planner George Frantz modify plans for Mott Road area.

The Etna Industry / Office / Research area, a subject of controversy at last month's meeting, was substantially scaled back, with some portions converted to rural residential and others incorporated into the mixed-use Route 13 overlay. They also noted the existence of the Finger Lakes Land Trust's Etna Nature Preserve there, and suggested that maintaining a woodland buffer between Route 13 and the main portion of the Etna hamlet would be a good idea.

Also, in reponse to concerns voiced at the public meetings, David Weinstein suggested that:

This plan is not advocating the immediate construction of sewer and water into areas like those west of the hamlet of Etna, but rather that they should only go there as development intensifies.

George Frantz noted the cost and risk that "front-loading", building infrastructure in advance of development, can incur. The board approved the suggested change.

The board discussed farm issues briefly at the end of the meeting, noting both a general desire to strengthen language about preserving existing farms and New York State's more active interest in ensuring that municipalities don't make it too difficult for farms to operate. A Ulysses ordinance that made certain to provide for farmers' needs throughout had recently passed muster with the state's Department of Agriculture and Markets, though recent Town of Ithaca ordinances are facing hard questions from both farmers and the state.

Posted by simon at March 19, 2004 12:07 PM in , , , , ,
Note on photos