townhall_120About 50 Lansingites showed up Wednesday for a public information meeting hosted by the Comprehensive Plan Update Committee (CPUC).  The committee has been working since early September of 2012 on gathering data and analyzing a 2006 version of the plan.  Wednesday's meeting was the first in a series of anticipated meetings to give information to the public and solicit ideas and opinions from current residents.  Town Planner Jonathan Kanter said that the plan is an outline for future growth that ultimately comes from the public.

"The comprehensive plan is a collection of documents that sets forth goals and recommended actions in order to insure that a community grows in an orderly, well thought out manner," said Town Planner Jonathan Kanter.  "It's pretty simple, but pretty important."

The committee spent the first three or four months organizing and deciding how it would proceed.  Members reviewed the 2006 plan, which Kanter says is a good plan, but not as specific as the revision will be.  Data has been collected and analyzed, including an update of demographic data based on the 2010 census.  They identified key issues facing the Town since 2006 and conducted a scientific, random sample survey, and has started on creating goals and objectives.

Committee member Susan Tabrizi reprised a presentation analyzing the telephone survey results that she presented in December.  She said most of the results are well outside the statistical margin of error, and thus will provide a reliable guide for the committee as they craft a plan to residents' desires.

The group split into four 'breakout groups' to get residents' opinions on Parks, Recreation and Pathways; Land Use and Development; Town Center and Hamlets; and Gas Drilling.

The Parks and Recreation discussion focussed on the future of the railroad track that spans the lake shore between Myers Park and the Cayuga Power Plant.  Whether the plant is repowered or closed that span of railroad track will no longer be needed to transport coal to the plant.  Participants said they want the Town to craft a plan and consider a walking trail.

One of the hottest topics is the proposed Lansing Town Center.  A town center was part of the 2006 comprehensive plan, and a concept for the center was developed by Holt Architects in 2010 with much input from the public.    Most of the discussion focussed on the Town Center, reasons for developing it and what should be included.  Three responses to a Request For Proposals (RFP) have been submitted, that, if developed, would eventually form a mixed use town center that includes a variety of housing options, including a senior housing complex, and a modest retail and professional services area. 

The discussion focussed on differing opinions on quality of life issues and possible tax impacts a town center may have on the community.  Town Supervisor Kathy Miller explained that the town land proposed for a center was purchased at a low rate and is assessed for much more than the Town paid, also saying that the Town will make a profit on the sale of the land.  Concerns about who pays for infrastructure were addressed when RFP Committee Chair Daniel Adinolfi said the developers themselves intend to pay for roads, sewer and other infrastructure, but noted his committee stil has some unanswered questions.  Using the land to promote tourism instead of just creating a town center was also discussed.  The idea that dense development in a town center would relieve pressure on rural sprawl was discussed.

There was some discussion of hamlets in the Town and how to preserve their unique neighborhood characters.  Kanter identified Ludlowville, Myers and South Lansing (originally Libertyville) as the three hamlets within the township.

The Land Use and Development group talked about a number of factors that define the character of the Lansing community, including its rural nature, residential areas and open spaces, wetlands and other natural resources.  The group recognized large farms as equally important to the Town as smaller family farms.  The group wanted to look at the inter-connectiveness of the various elements of the Town and generated a long list of comments and concerns.  Creating an atmosphere where young families and seniors can afford to stay in Lansing was discussed.

The Gas Drilling group reviewed the potential of actual gas drilling, concluding that it is not very likely that drilling in the Town would be productive.  Natural Gas Drilling Oversight Committee Chair Larry Beck said that if the Town agrees with that assessment the next step would be to pursue an outright ban on hydrofracking in Lansing to replace the moratorium that is currently in place.

Information and background documents have been posted on the Town Web site, and Kanter says more documents will be posted in the future.  A draft of a vision statement intended to begin the updated plan lays out specific initiatives the plan will address. 

"The Town of Lansing welcomes growth in a balanced, sustainable, and coordinated way in areas where appropriate services and infrastructure are available or can be provided efficiently and at reasonable cost, planned in a way that is attractive, environmentally sensitive and facilitates access to places where residents live, go to school, shop, work and play," it reads.  "The town should make sound investments in infrastructure, including public water and sewer, to channel growth into appropriate areas.  One of the primary focuses of the town should be to create and enhance a town center in South Lansing, building upon the amenities and services that are already there, including the new Town hall, Library, Community Center, recreational facilities and trails, small businesses and the large parcel of town-owned land.  The town envisions a town center as a relatively high density, mixed-use, pedestrian and transit-oriented community, that includes places to live, work, shop, play and has community services.  The town center will be an important factor in the economic growth of the town, as will tourism, the arts, and local food production.  Residents of all income levels and backgrounds should have a choice of housing and transportation options, including access to transit, walkways, parks, and trails.  The town is dedicated to the preservation of its natural areas and resources and will proactively seek to prevent degradation of these resources as the town grows and will support opportunities for use of renewable energy resources.  Support of agriculture and sound agricultural practices, small businesses, and safe, responsible industry, will continue to make Lansing attractive to both residents and visitors, and attract local and small-scale commercial activities.  The town will support safe and affordable housing for low, middle and high income residents, and encourage this development in an environmentally sound way.  Positive interaction and cooperation with the Village of Lansing will further strengthen the community character of the town.  Land use policies through sound planning and zoning practices should encourage responsible growth that will not negatively impact the overall character of the town."

Kanter said the updated comprehensive plan will help to prepare the Town for the future and to help the Town make good choices, establish a community vision, and help the Town obtain grants for municipal projects. 

"What, really, does the Town want to see happen?  To encourage economic stability and a good tax base" Kanter said.  "To protect significant environmental and natural resources -- of course we want to do that.  Probably one of the most important is to provide a good, sound basis of foundation for all of the regulations and laws that the Town wants to adopt."