August 28, 2002

Board Reviews West Campus Plans

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The Ithaca Planning and Development Board continued its review of Cornell’s West Campus Residential Initiative (WCRI) during its regular meeting yesterday. The planning board determined that a Draft Environmental Impact Statement was complete enough to be presented to the community for public comment.


Kathryn Wolf of Trowbridge and Wolf Landscape Architects, the firm working with Cornell on the WCRI , discussed the current research being done concerning the WCRI.

“The public hearing will be on the parking lot and the West Campus project,” Wolf said. “We’re trying to help you understand what could happen.”

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement will include possibilities for alternate sites for the construction of the parking and a water tank.

The area around the proposed site for the parking lot and water tanks include such historic buildings as Ezra Cornell’s mansion known as Llenroc, several buildings associated with it including a carriage house, Elijah Cornell’s (Ezra Cornell’s brother) house, and several buildings built by the Tremans, a family famous for its development of Tompkins County state parks.

The WCRI will involve the replacement of the current class halls and Noyes Community Center with living-learning units equipped with libraries, computer centers, and dining halls.

The current West Campus parking lot will be demolished in the WCRI’s plans, creating a need for more University parking. The proposed parking lot would contain 195 parking spaces, and would run along the backs of several buildings, including Von Cramm and 660 Stewart Ave. co-operatives.

Adam November ’03, president of the 660 co-operative said that his organization has joined other residents of the area in voicing their concern over the proposals. “I plan on attending any future hearings,” he said.

November said that the 660 co-operative’s “primary concerns are privacy, noise and light pollution and the change of scenery.” According to November, there are also potential problems in allowing parking traffic to come through the area. “We would have people coming through our backyard,” he said.

Additionally, city officials began researching the possibility of placing city water tanks in the area near the proposed parking lot. In June, the City planning board declared the initial Draft Environmental Impact Statement incomplete for public review because the water tank plans were not discussed.

Bill Gray, City engineer and superintendent of Public Works, discussed the ongoing research concerning the placement of city water tanks in the area of the proposed West Campus parking lot. “Cornell has offered us opportunities to look at [water] systems in conjunction with their system,” Gray said.

According to Gray, the current study being conducted looks at a variety of possibilities for the water tanks, which include not building the tanks at all. “We believe we’ve also looked at a ‘worse’ case scenario or a ‘maximum size’ scenario,” Wolf said.

Wolf emphasized that the current discussion of the city water tanks was in no way a definite plan. “The city isn’t prepared to make a definitive proposal as to where the water tank would go,” she said.

The debate over the WCRI stems in part from concerns over a proposed parking lot in the “Redbud Woods” area, near University and Stewart Aves.

In July, the Ithaca Common Council Budget and Administration Committee called for a historic resources survey to be made of most of the area between University and Stewart Aves., the first step in designating the area a historic district. If the area is designated a historic district, the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission would have to review and approve any development plans in the future.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Sept. 17th to address comments and concerns of the public. According to planning board member Joann Cornish, any additional studies that are necessary to answer questions and comments will be conducted at that time.

Additionally, the board will visit the sight of the proposed parking lot and water tank. “We have proposed to have surveyors stake out the potential sites of the parking lot and water tanks,” Wolf said.

Archived article by Kate Cooper