July 8, 2010

First Impressions of last night's Varna meeting

Last night's meeting at the Varna Community Center to discuss Stephen Lucente's plans for development was one of the strangest meetings I've ever attended. I don't think it was just the heat. A few of the highlights, from my definitely biased perspective:

  • Lucente was invited to present, but instead stayed in the audience, with engineer Larry Fabbroni. Dave Weinstein wound up presenting what's publicly known about the proposal.

  • Lucente and Fabbroni weren't very happy that anyone would present the proposal they made in February, insisting that they were hard at work on something better, but something that wasn't ready yet. He offered no details. Pressed by Tompkins Weekly reporter Nick Babel for a timetable, he said only that "we're getting ready as quickly as we can" and "soon".

  • The name of the development will not be "Varna II", but Lucente wasn't "ready to release the name". (For now, I'll continue to call it Varna II, for lack of a better name. I'll update the category name when he unveils the new name.)

Jim Skaley opens the conversation.
Jim Skaley opens the conversation.

  • Response to the results of the previous planning for Varna meeting was generally positive, though most of that positivity came from the Varna residents who'd helped create it.

  • There were two large though not really unexpected elephants in the room: the road (Route 366), and Cornell. Larry Fabbroni suggested that Cornell's 200-year plan involves owning all of this area eventually. I don't remember seeing that in the master plan.

  • David Weinstein pointed out that new residential development can be a net tax expense for an area, not simply growth in the tax base.

  • An excerpt of the new draft zoning Dave Weinstein showed in a slide suggested that the new zoning tilts further to higher density development than the previous draft, jumping the hamlet zone from a 4 units/acre maximum to a 10 units/acre maximum. I don't yet see that new draft posted, though.

  • Lucente said proudly that "I have a plan for everything. If I have something left [ugly] I'm going to replace it with something better." That didn't sit well with residents, who asked some pointed questions about specific properties. Lucente did offer a complete list of his properties and a tour of them to questioners.

  • Although the project is described as owner-occupied, there was mention of a "transition" rental period. They were now talking about sale prices in a range from $150K to $200K, not the $220K mentioned at the February Planning Board meeting.

Larry Fabbroni responds to resident questions.
Larry Fabbroni responds to resident questions.

Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner was there, as were Town Board members David Makar and Jason Leifer. County Legislator Martha Robertson was there, as were Planning Board Chair Joe Lalley, and Planning Board members Wendy Martin and David Weinstein. (Two Planning Board members were wearing multiple hats: Lalley is also Director of Facilities at Cornell, and Weinstein is a Varna resident who's been active in developing the hamlet residents' plan.)

David Weinstein did present a slide that contained more information than I'd gleaned from the Planning Board meeting. Among other things it noted a possibility of "LEED-approved designs", though not which level of certification.

Some additional details on the February 2010 proposal.
Some additional details on the February 2010 proposal. (Click the picture for a larger image.)

I'll have a lot more on all of this as I find time to write about it.

Posted by simon at July 8, 2010 8:08 AM in , , ,
Note on photos