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Zoning Change

The intersection of Ridge and Myers Roads has long been an area of concern because of the danger to school children from cars speeding from the northwest.  More recently the corner has become controversial because of zoning.  In July the Town Planning Board recommended that a parcel with an auto repair shop be rezoned from L1 (Lakeshore) to B1 (Commercial Mixed Use) along with four other small zoning 'adjustments'.  But in October when the Town Board passed them into law the repair shop parcel was missing.  The Board may change zoning for the parcel next month after reconsidering the change Wednesday.

"I understand the zoning is still being worked on and there may be some need for it to be contiguous with the other business zones," said Councilwoman Katrina Binkewicz. "But I think an error was made and we should give (owner Karl Kohlenberg) a formal commitment to being a garage as we go forward."

"The planning Board did look at this twice and made a very specific recommendation about it," said Town Attorney Guy Krogh. "Your zoning says that zoning changes get referred to the Planning Board.  The Planning Board made it's recommendations.  The Town Board didn't discuss it and didn't follow through with it.  Now the discussion is starting."

School Crossing
LaVigne noted that Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler had secured funding from New York State Senator Pam Helming to establish a crossing guard on the Ridge Road at the Myers Road corner.  Previously Sigler had tried to get the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) to install rumble strips to alert drivers coming from the north that they are entering a school zone, but the DOT declined.

"There's a concern about that because there's a concern about kids going across," he said. "We're now talking about a crossing guard there.  We are working with the school district to come up with a proposal for a crossing guard across that road."
The repair shop was built in 1961 when it was zoned B1, and when it was rezoned to L1 15 years ago the use was 'grandfathered' so the business could continue to operate.  But under the current zoning Kohlenberg said its sale value is significantly diminished, in part because another business could not locate there and because the property is not actually a lakefront property.

"I don't see any reason why its not commercially zoned," he said. "It's always been commercial.  The repair shop was built in 1961.  In my opinion (the zoning change to L1) has drastically dropped the value of it.  I'm getting up in years and I'm thinking about what to do with the rest of my life.  If I sell it as Lakeshore zoned it's certainly not worth what it would be as a commercial property for anybody."

Kohlenberg said that if for any reason he couldn't operate the business for a year the Lakeshore zoning would mean it could never be a garage again.

"There's a garage across the street," said Binkewicz, referring to the much larger school bus garage.  "Visually it's consistent with its neighbors."

LaVigne said a petition signed by neighboring Myers Road residents and submitted to the Town supports the change to commercial zoning.

"We as residents of Myers Road are writing to voice our complete support for Karl Kohlenberg and his request to have a zoning change to B1 to reflect the uses of his property.  That property has been continuously operated as a business since at least 1961.  It seems only fair to allow him to operate with appropriate zoning.  We hope that you will support Karl's request."

Zoning Change

The property change was originally part of five zoning changes recommended by the Planning Board.  The other four were passed into law in October, making three Auburn Road properties north of Scoops ice cream shop B1-Commercial Mixed Use, and a fourth on Franklyn Drive B2-Commercial Use.  But the Kohlenberg property was removed from the mix after some residents, including School Board member Brenda Zavaski advocated against it, saying that commercial uses near the schools might not be safe for students.

Myers Heights resident Melanie Malone also spoke against making the change Wednesday, saying there is tourist value in the area for Lansing because it is located on the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway, and less than a mile from Myers Park, Salmon Creek fishing area, and Salt Point.  She said the noncommercial character of the area is one of the reasons it has become a focal point for the community.

"Most of the uses (in B1 zones) are not suitable for this location," she said. "A drive through restaurant, a laundromat, a gas station, a vaping lounge... Ithaca now has a Cannabis Oil Shop.  It's retail sales.  I believe that would be a permitted use within B1 zoning.  Once zoned B1 any permitted use would be allowed, not only the ones we deem desirable."

Zoning ChangesIn October these Auburn Road Parcels were rezoned in October from IR (Industrial / Research) to B1 (Commercial Mixed Use)

Zoning ChangeIn October this vacant Franklin Drive parcel was changed from R1 (Residential Low Density) to B2 (Commercial Use)

Councilman Joe Wetmore said that changing the zoning for one parcel could be construed as 'spot zoning' and that the whole corner should be looked at with a mind toward creating a new kind of zoning that would allow specific uses appropriate to the area near the school, but not others.

"We need to look at that corner and create a zone that deals with the uniqueness of that corner," he said. "We can send it back to the Planning Board and say, 'can you kick something around?'  That might be a way of moving this forward.  At least we could come to a solution I would feel more comfortable with."

But Councilman Doug Dake noted that the Planning Board has already made its recommendation, and LaVigne likened sending it back to the Planning Board again to 'chasing our tail'.  He said the Town Board could look at the issue in a more timely fashion and make a decision.

"If we're not going to take the Planning Board's recommendations why do we have a planning board?" LaVigne said. "I give their recommendations very serious consideration and they carry weight.  At the end of the day you have to look at a citizen saying 'Am I happy with the situation?'"

Binkewicz said another option is to revert the property to its original commercial zoning because an error was made when it was zoned L1.  Then the Planning Board could look at the area near the school and deliberate on appropriate zoning, a process that board has already started.  Councilwoman Andra Benson said she would be comfortable with that recommendation, and most board members agreed.  Kohlenberg also said he would be happy with that approach.

"If it's commercial it gives us time to discuss this and we'll have taken the recommendation of the Planning Board," LaVigne said. "Our zoning is not complete yet.  If you look at the bigger picture and have a serious discussion with compromises I think that's good.  In the meantime we'll have addressed a wrong."

"I agree with Katrina's recommendation," Dake added.

Krogh said the Board will have to pass a local law to amend the zoning, which would include a public hearing and environmental review.  LaVigne said there can be more discussion and a public hearing at the Town Board's December 5th working meeting, and then it could come to a vote at the Board's regular December 17th meeting.

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