Maguire owner Phil Maguire filed a lawsuit on Friday against the City of Ithaca, claiming their temporary waterfront zoning is illegal.

Katie Sims / Sun Staff Photographer

Maguire owner Phil Maguire filed a lawsuit on Friday against the City of Ithaca, claiming their temporary waterfront zoning is illegal.

February 26, 2017

Maguire Dealerships Owner Sues City of Ithaca, Mayor Over Zoning

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Maguire Family of Dealerships has turned to Tompkins County Supreme Court to aid its year-long quest to construct a dealership at Carpenter Business Park near the Cayuga Inlet.

The dealership’s owner, Phil Maguire, filed a lawsuit in court on Friday against the City of Ithaca, the city’s planning and development director and all 11 members of Common Council — including Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 — arguing that the city’s zoning of the waterfront area is illegal.

Maguire claims, in the lawsuit, that Common Council’s zoning of the waterfront area as a Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development district exceeds the council’s authority, violates New York State law, is an abuse of power, is inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and is unconstitutionally vague.

In an interview on Sunday, Phil Maguire said the dealership and Ithaca are in early, productive talks to potentially build a dealership on a city-owned plot of land behind Walmart on Route 13. He brushed aside the lawsuit, which makes sharp claims about the legality of the city’s zoning, as “nothing more than a contingency plan.”

“If everything fell through and we chose to get a second opinion on the TMPUD, we’re forced to do this in order to keep that option open,” Maguire told The Sun, citing time requirements for legal challenges. “Believe me when I tell you that everything has been very positive — it’s not anything negative.”

Maguire purchased six parcels of land through an LLC in August and September 2015 for just over $2.7 million, deeds show. One month after Maguire applied for a building permit in February 2016, Common Council created the TMPUD, requiring developers to work closely with the council for any project in the waterfront area.

Maguire, who is represented by attorney Anthony N. Elia III of Miller Mayer LLP, makes many arguments that the TMPUD violates state law, including claims that the zoning treats buildings in the same zone differently, that New York does not give cities the right to make PUDs mandatory and that the TMPUD authorizes or encourages “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”

“The TMPUD is so vague that any application may be rejected,” the lawsuit says, later adding: “It is not clear what end the TMPUD serves other than to stop development.”

The TMPUD expires on Sept. 2, 2017, by which time Common Council plans to adopt regulations for the waterfront area consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Mayor Myrick told The Sun that the city followed “a thorough and legal process” and that all decisions made by Ithaca’s committees and Common Council were sound.

“We will defend against this lawsuit vigorously, protect policy makers and protect the city’s right — the people of the City of Ithaca’s right — to decide what uses are appropriate,” he said.

Myrick also noted the opposition of many Ithacans to a car dealership at Carpenter Business Park. Ithaca residents sent more than 240 letters to City Hall arguing against the dealership when it was being considered by the Planning Committee, which ultimately recommended against Maguire’s proposal in October.

Common Council officially killed Maguire’s proposal in December by a vote of 8 to 2.

“It’s just pretty clear that a car dealership at that site is not what the people have in mind and the people of Ithaca are entitled to make land use decisions,” Myrick said.

Maguire emphasized that he only filed the lawsuit to preserve the dealership’s rights if plans for the Southwest Business Park behind Walmart do not work out.

“The actual story is we’ve been having great dialogue and it’s all been positive and in good faith,” he said of conversations with Ithaca. “We’re working very well with the city to relocate us to Southwest Business Park.”

Maguire acknowledged that a dealership at Carpenter Business Park appears to not be in Ithaca’s vision for that space.

“Carpenter Business Park is not the best place for our usage, so we’re working hard to come up with something closer down to Route 13,” he said, adding that if the Southwest development works out, he will try to sell off his Carpenter Business Park properties at 742 Cascadilla Street.

Second Ward Alderperson Seph Murtagh, who chairs the Planning Committee, said he was committed to finding a solution for Maguire so they can sell their Carpenter Business Park properties and move to the Southwest location.

“I think that [Maguire has] heard overwhelmingly from the Ithaca community — the downtown community — they’ve heard overwhelmingly from the constituency that I represent on the Common Council that that site is not a good site for a car dealership,” Murtagh said.

“There’s not a lot of space,” he added. “[Maguire is] trying to expand their business. They’re trying to grow and they’re just trying to find a way to do that which works within the city’s rules and regulations.”

  • Patricia Tellerico

    We have enough car dealers. Go up the hill and build there. The waterway belongs to the city and it’s people. We do not want cement there, we want live growing land full of sunshine.

  • Bob Hutko

    What terrible publicity! What a great way to turn the public opinion of city residents against you, Mr. Maguire! You already have a monopoly on car dealerships in Ithaca… The council, the mayor, and residents see a waterfront that has been totally misused and we want to see it turned into a beautiful and valuable resource for our community – not more cars!!

    Get on board with the values of our community or look elsewhere for your business! I’m sure that the land that you purchased has just as much value (probably more) than when you bought it.

  • Matt

    It’s refreshing to see businesses that care about the community actually get involved, to expand their business, create jobs and help the economy continue to improve. Ithaca is a healthy, vibrant town and Maguire expanding their business will only help us all in the long run.

  • Dan

    Maguire is a family of integrity and doing everything they can to help Ithaca and contribute to its economy.

  • Marco

    I have had great experiences with Maguire and look forward to see this dealership grow even more in the future.

  • empress2k9

    Maguire is an honest business–better to have them continue to expand than have another less desirable care dealership in its place! My family members have had great experiences when buying their cars from this dealership.

  • JessaLynn

    The Maguire family cares about the community and want to bring more job opportunities to Ithaca. I think this expansion will only help the community.

  • A

    Maguire is an honest family run business that treats their customers right!

    • alumnus

      The last 5 comments all look like they were written by the same person… They were also all posted within 10 minutes of each other, some posted within the same minute. I can’t prove this but it’s pretty sketchy. Stop trying to tarnish the natural beauty of Ithaca with another car dealership, and stop pretending that businesses’ number 1 priorities isn’t their profit.

      • Jeff

        Alumnus – it is not the same person. It is a group of people that work together that want to show support for Maguire (and no we are not Maguire employees). We all got together to show our support. Nothing wrong with that. I respect your opinion, but I think it’s incredible that so many people have these opinions when they haven’t done the necessary research to understand the whole situation.

        Maguire has said they are moving on from the Carpenter project.
        The lawsuit is just a contingency to protect themselves and their investment in case Southwest doesn’t work out
        The entire time this has been happening, they have been more than flexible, trying to be a business that is environmentally friendly and ENHANCE Ithaca by providing more jobs for it’s residents and supporting the community garden.

        Most people only read a headline and let themselves get all self righteous without fully understanding the context of the situation.

        I think it is a huge hypocrisy that so many people are all about helping to support local business but as soon as a local business owner is trying to grow their business, it’s “Greed”. What exactly is the cutoff between hungry entrepreneur and “greedy” business owner. People are so fickle.

  • TheSingingGiant

    It is a difficult position, to sit in between two very different views for Ithaca. One, to preserve waterfront (which the plans Phil Maguire had kept that goal in mind as well) and on the other hand, growing a business that will create more jobs/careers/living wages and REVENUE for the city of Ithaca.
    I see both sides, I also see that there is room for growth in an area no one has any real viable plan for, except Maguire Automotive.
    Although difficult for some to stomach, we must all be en flux… ever changing and moving forward. Eventually this area will be developed on and I would honestly rather have a reputable businesslike Maguire Automotive create something that is more than just concrete and stores. But a business with values like Honesty, Family, Integrity, and Respect…

  • Anja

    The city of Ithaca should be supporting local businesses that are trying to grow. This expansion will only bring more jobs to the community and help the overall economy grow!

  • Conner45

    Local business like this improve the local economy and the surrounding area!