April 2, 2009

C-Town Zoning Raises Student Criticism

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After hearing two hours of public comments from students and community members, the Ithaca Common Council voted six to four in favor of the proposed R-3c zoning in Collegetown during its meeting in the City Hall last night. However, despite the majority vote, the zoning proposal will not pass until a petition submitted by R-3c residents is reviewed.
The R-3c was proposed for a neighborhood in east Collegetown. During the meeting, a petition signed by eight residents owning 21 out of 34 pieces of property within the proposed bounds of R3-c opposing the creation of the new district was introduced to the Council. As a result, a super-majority vote of 75 percent of Council members is needed for the adoption of the R-3c proposal.
The creation of the R-3c residential zone was proposed by the Ciy of Ithaca Planning and Development Board, passed by the Planning Committee two years ago and revived in February when it became clear that the new Collegetown zoning would not be in effect by the time the moratorium expires on April 12. The R-3c proposal suggested incorporating the neighborhood primarily bound by College, Oak, Elmwood Avenues and Dryden Road, which are parts of the existing R-2a and R-3a, into a new residential zone with distinct building specifications.
The R-3c proposal would have lowered the maximum building height in some areas from 40 to 35 feet, the maximum percent lot coverage from 35 to 30 percent and increased the required yard dimensions of houses.
The creation of R-3c as it is specified would have been contrary to the Nov. 24, 2008 draft of the Col­legetown Urban Plan Design Guidelines, a version of which is currently under deliberation. These urban guidelines, which were originally drawn up by the Goody Clancy consultants in collaboration with the Collegetown Vision Imple­mentation Committee, intended to increase development and density in Collegetown. According to Edward Strong grad, member of the Collegetown Vision Imple­mentation Com­mittee, the specifications of the R-3c zone essentially discourages density and development by further restricting building specifications.
Many property owners living within the proposed bounds of R-3c are in opposition to the rezoning. Ithaca resident Michael Fraker, owner of two properties on Dryden Road, only learned about the rezoning proposal via Facebook and spoke about his disapproval of the proposed zoning.
“I went around and talked to several of my neighbors, and they had no idea this rezoning was happening,” Fraker said. “My house is currently 38 feet, and I’m being asked to lower that. Am I supposed to lop my roof off?”
In addition to property owners, Cornell and Ithaca College students present at the meeting voiced their opposition to any development that would hinder the development of College­town.
“As a scientist, I am interested in utilizing resources,” Christopher Matthews grad said. Matthews suggested that the urbanization of Collegetown would effectively make College­town more sustainable by centralizing resources and more effectively utilizing space. He went on to say that the urbanization would make public transportation more centralized and efficient.
“Students have the economic power to force current residents out. … The actions you take now will help [house] future students,” Tony Miller ’10 said.
Numerous other students and residents voiced support for the original Goody Clancy guidelines. Although the majority of these concerns were addressed at the Collegetown urban guidelines and not the R-3c proposal, they nonetheless showed indirect disapproval for the R-3c rezoning.
“It’s amazing that we saw so many students come out today. I think it was great that the Common Council got to hear from those most affected by the plan,” Svante Myrick ’09 (D-4th ward) said. “They now see that the vast majority of residents in Collegetown want to see the core of Collegetown transformed into a more dense, more walkable and more livable space.”