postheadericon Lansing To Solicit Ideas For Town Center

towncenter_aerialmap120As the Lansing sewer district comes closer to formation discussions about the Town Center have also heated up.  Some town officials and the Lansing Sewer and Economic Development Committees are supporting two proposed senior housing projects that will insure the number of dwelling units needed to keep a sewer project affordable.  But beyond those two projects, the Town Center project is up for grabs.

In March NRP Group's Chris Dirr presented a comprehensive plan for a Town Center that included the two projects plus future projects that would transform 156 acres of what is now a huge field the Town acquired for the purpose of building a town center.  NRP specializes in tax-incentive funded affordable projects.  It's first project is an 80 cottage-style senior homes.  Calimar has proposed a 110-unit senior apartment building.

Townspeople have expressed concerns that while the overall plan does have some accommodation for younger families that the brunt of the proposal was geared toward senior citizens.  Councilman Ed LaVigne has noted that the 'Baby Boom' generation is looking for places such as the ones that have been proposed to settle in their retirement years, and have the money to spend on them.  But Lansing residents have imagined a town center for all age groups that will include starter homes for young families as well as senior housing, a central retail area, park and trail lands, and possibly a light manufacturing and technology park.

The latter was proposed by the town Economic Development Committee for the northern-most portion of the property between the boys juvenile detention center and the Town Hall and ballfields.  Committee members say it would help the tax base, while providing new jobs in Lansing where new residents of the Town Center could potentially walk to work.

Economic Development Committee Chairman Andy Sciarabba says that he has been talking to businesses that may be interested in locating in the new Town Center, assuming the sewer project passes and a Town Center actually is built.  But he says the idea is on hold until the Town receives responses to a Request For Proposals (RFP), which may make the final town center very different from the plan NRP Group presented.

"Kathy and the Town Board want to see ideas for the remainder of the Town Center, which makes sense," he says.  "Two years ago they did a land use allocation plan that was presented to the town.  That was a starting point.  But I think when we saw this sample master plan it was pushing people too fast."

To adress residents' concerns about the makeup of the Town Center the Town Board has decided to send developers the RFP.  The document is largely being developed by Planning Consultant Jonathan Kanter and Town Attorney Guy Krogh with input from other town officials.  Town Supervisor Kathy Miller says the RFP will be shown to various stakeholders before sending it to developers, including the Town and Planning Boards, the Pathways Committee, and others.

The RFP lays out a shopping list of things townspeople have said they want in a town center, and invites developers to submit ideas that could range from an overall plan for the land to individual project proposals.  Miller says that will give the Town a smorgasbord of potential projects it can choose from to create the town center current residents want.

"This is truly a really good RFP," she said Wednesday.  "It's very impressive.  The whole idea is you throw that out there and say these are things we want you to consider.  It's a broad brush, but it has all the things we would like to see."

Miller also says the Comprehensive Plan Committee has begun meeting under the Kanter's guidance.  This committee is working on updating the plan, in part to make sure the Town is protected from the potential consequences of hydrofracking, and in part to bring the plan up to date as a town center, the concept of which is already part of the plan, will bring a major upgrade to the way the Town controls its growth.  That committee will also create design guidelines for new building within the Town Center.

"I am impressed with them," Miller said.  "They are very forward looking, yet they want to preserve farmland.  I have a great deal of confidence in them."

Miller says she hopes to be ready to send the RFP to developers soon, possibly within another month.

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