September 15, 2010

New Plans For Collegetown Zoning Call For Greater Building Density

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The Collegetown Zoning Working Group presented plans to increase the building density of Collegetown by allowing for higher and larger buildings in certain areas at Common Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting Wednesday. The committee voted unanimously to distribute the plans and seek public comment.“It’s time that we get some outside eyes and have a greater audience to vet this,” said JoAnn Cornish, City of Ithaca Director of Planning and Development. “I don’t know how much further we can take this as a working group.”  These plans are one aspect of the 2009 Collegetown Urban Plan & Conceptual Design Guidelines, which were endorsed by the Common Council last year.  This plan calls for more density in the Collegetown area. The zoning plans proved to be contentious, and two board members, Svante Myrick ’09 (D-4th Ward) and Dan Cogan M.S. ’95 (D-5th Ward), expressed concern that proposed zoning increases in the central areas in Collegetown would not provide enough development potential. Myrick said he would not vote to approve the plan. Cogan said that the increase in density in the core areas of Collegetown — College Avenue, Linden Avenue and Dryden Road between Linden and Eddy Street — is not enough to satisfy the needs of the community.“I can understand the needle that we’re trying to thread here,” Cogan said. “People are concerned about the densities, but there are a lot of pressures on the region for housing. We don’t want to turn it into a student ghetto, but we do want to find places for people to live. It’s a huge concern that we will have come this far and that we haven’t provided what we are seeking.”  The zoning plan divides Collegetown into three basic zoning areas. The Traditional Residential zones lie on the periphery of Collegetown and are limited to three stories in most areas. “There is not a lot of new development here, but should building arise, this code is made to make it compatible with the existing character of the neighborhood,” said Megan Gilbert, a City of Ithaca planner and a member of the working group. The Traditional Residential zones would require pitched roofs and front porches. The next type of zone, the Village Residential areas, would limit buildings to between three and five stories, depending on location. This zone type is intended to encourage development but also to serve as a buffer between peripheral areas and the Mixed Use zone. Each building is required to have a front porch or stoop in most of these zones, which are intended to include medium-density housing units. The last zone is the Mixed Use zone, which includes an “incentive zone” allowing a maximum height of up to seven stories, with special approval. Previously, the city only allowed a maximum of six story buildings in this area. This zoning, additionally, allows 100 percent lot coverage, and requires flat roofs. According to Gilbert, the current zoning proposal is the result of more than 50 meetings. She said the zoning plans balance the concerns of residents while also taking into consideration the needs of the area. “This plan is a compromise,” she said. “Some people will be unhappy, hoping for more, some people might think its too much. There are voices on both sides.” Additonally, Gilbert said that, though the zoning plans have not yet been approved, she believes that the plans will move forward and be improved with community input. “I don’t think this thing is going to be sitting around,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest in it. I think it will move forward.”

Original Author: Juan Forrer