City of Ithaca

The proposed South Hill overlay district was first introduced in the September meeting of the Common Council.

November 5, 2017

City Approves South Hill Overlay District, Responding to Residents’ Concerns

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Responding to an outcry from Ithaca residents who say the South Hill neighborhood is losing green space and that Ithaca College students are rowdier than ever before, Common Council voted 9-1 to establish a South Hill overlay district and restrict development in the area.

The amendment to the city code alters the zoning map to include a South Hill Overlay District. Restrictions for the district are intended to reduce infill development, multiple buildings built largely for students on single plots that are increasing the density of the area.

Some South Hill residents told Common Council members that they wanted the overlay district because they are concerned about their neighborhood’s future, both in terms of its atmosphere and visual aesthetic.

Many South Hill residents have been concerned with the number of properties being built solely for students and how by building these properties, the neighborhood is getting more crowded.

South Hill resident Pam Mackesey spoke on behalf of a group and emphasized that South Hill residents have consistently been some of the “most consistently and persistently active” in the city.

“A number of us have been coming here for years,” Mackesey said. “We fought for that traffic light on Hillview [Place] and Aurora [Street] so kids could walk to South Hill School, and now you can’t even get past that intersection without that light. This shows how much South HIll residents care about where they live.”

John Graves, another South Hill resident, said there is not a need for additional housing for students because there are already vacancies in the college’s student housing.

“Designing buildings for students when not needed is not a good reason to destroy a residential neighborhood,” Graves said.

The alderpersons who voted in favor of the overlay district said it would positively impact the neighborhood and give them time to analyze the current development situation. Many of the alderpersons said they were concerned that most of the developments were geared toward student residents.

“Typically, we all agree that infill development is beneficial, and it is in the comprehensive plan, but what we’re seeing in South HIll is negative infill development, and this overlay district will essentially put a pause on that until we can do a study and figure out a longer term solution for the neighborhood,” said Alderperson Seph Murtagh, who represents the Second Ward.

Alderperson Cynthia Brock, who represents the First Ward, agreed with Murtagh and further expanded on the cause of the problems and long-term solutions the council could seek for South Hill.

“I would like to see Ithaca College take a more responsible role in the behavior of their students,” Brock said. “I would like to see their peace officers support our local law enforcement the way Cornell’s does, coming off campus and helping to monitor the behavior of the students.”

“You have hundreds of students walking to and from bars, and they have an impact on the neighborhoods in between,” Brock said. “There’s a lot of things we need to consider before we lift this overlay.”