The Village of Lansing Trustees passed a change to the Lansing Meadows PDA (Planned Development Area) Monday that will add a small commercial space to the senior rental housing project that was part of an agreement that allowed the construction of the BJ's Wholesale Club building at the Shops at Ithaca Mall. A disagreement between the Planning Board and Trustees on whether a small coffee shop or similar business should be allowed on the Oakcrest Road property.

Lansing Meadows is expected to be a 20-unit apartment development that will be rented by tenants 55 and older. The residential 'buffer neighborhood' was proposed as a condition of the original PDA which allowed for the construction in 2011 of what is now BJ's Wholesale Club. But negotiations between developer Eric Goetzmann and the Army Corps of Engineers over the location of wetlands on the property delayed the senior housing portion of the project for six years, costing Goetzmann about $300,000 in expenses.

Goetzmann asked village officials to rezone about 20% of the property back to commercial use, which he said would provide an amenity to residents of the new apartments that they could walk to, as well as a convenient place for YMCA members to get a cup or coffee, or a light meal, depending on the tenant he eventually attracts.

Mayor Donald hartill negotiated a compromise with Planning Board Chairman Mario Tomei, which the Planning Board agreed to last month. The amendment to the zoning specified very specific commercial uses for the parcel and set-back requirements.

Oakcrest Road resident Larry Bieri spoke against the zoning change at a public hearing Monday.

"I'm not happy about the compromise on the cafe at Lansing Meadows," he said. "It seems like they started out with BJ's and 12 units. Then BJ's and 18 units, then BJ's and 20 units. Now it's 24 units, I think and all those unit are crammed into 80% of that space because they're going to put more commercial in there. We had an agreement. Has the economics of it changed that much?"

But Hartill said the compromise will allow a project the Village has been anxious to see move forward, explaining that housing of this sort also helps a need in Tompkins County for additional housing.

"The County has been pushing very hard to increase the housing," Hartill said. "The developer spent a fair chunk of change to have alternate wetlands at a salt marsh near Montezuma, which is good for everybody from my point of view. The commercial concern that I had was that there might be a path to Oakcrest Road -- there is no such path.  The bottom line is that it's a compromise. It provides a path forward to get the housing done."

The change to the zoning law was unanimously approved. Last month Goetzmann said he has an agressive schedule for finalizing the plans so bids can go out and construction can begin this summer.