February 7, 2006

Forum Discusses SW Ithaca Development

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Ithaca’s Southwest Development Committee held a public forum last night to discuss a proposal for developing affordable and high-end housing on about 60 acres of city-owned property behind Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. The committee’s recommendation could alleviate Ithaca’s housing scarcity and create at least 600 residential units near shopping districts and commercial and industrial jobs.

The parcel of land is the largest undeveloped property owned by the City of Ithaca, according to Prof. David Kay, applied economics and management, who spearheaded the 11-member committee appointed by Mayor Carolyn Peterson and the Common Council.

The Southwest Vision statement, which emphasized the creation of environmentally sustainable, high-density, “walkable” neighborhoods with lots of public spaces, drew as many concerns as it did praise.

While Kay touted the recommendation as a “really exciting opportunity for the city,” attendees lobbed questions about flood control, cost and future city needs.

City of Ithaca Planning and Development Director Thys Van Cort said that flooding was not a concern. In the late 1990s, the city conducted a Generic Environmental Impact Statement that would evaluate potential environmental effects of the plan. GEIS concluded that development was feasible.

“One of the major areas of concern was flooding and storm water management