- By Dan Veaner
Nine years, at least as many plans, changes, and negotiations will finally lead to construction of the Lansing Meadows senior rental housing project next week. In a 4-0 vote, with one abstention, the Village of Lansing Planning Board declared Tuesday that a new plan for six triplexes containing 18 rental units to be rented to tenants 55 years old and older, updated from a plan for four triplexes that seemed doomed two weeks ago, is a 'minor change' from the approved site plan. That clears the way for construction to begin next week, and for the developer to meet the completion deadline, imposed last year, of July 31, 2020. Well, sort of.
"Phase 2 would start after the completion of the first 12 units," said the project's builder Jim Bold. "We'd like to add a year for the completion of the two additional buildings. We have a date-certain obligation (for the first four buildings). I'm saying a year because it relies on the availability of labor and subcontractors. Right now we have absolute certainty in what we can deliver by July of 2020. We have contractual obligations for that right now."
|Click here for a look at how Lansing Meadows has changed since the BJ's Wholesale Club building was constructed.|
Developer Eric Goetzman explained the original plan was a 'conceptual plan' when the PDA was approved, but subsequent plans were based on changes to the buildable acreage due to changes in wetlands, and more accurate information about usable space for building and existing infrastructure. The original plan proposed 12 individual cottages and a two-way ring road, bird sanctuary, and wetlands. The project was part of the Planned Development Area (PDA) created to construct the BJ's Wholesale Club building, with the senior rental housing a condition of building BJ's. The idea was to provide a gradual transition from high density commercial uses to residential areas north of the mall by creating a rental development where seniors could live and walk to shopping destinations. Last year a plan for 20 units was approved by the Planning Board and accepted by the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). In 2017 he Planning Board reluctantly approved a zoning change to 20% of the Oakcrest Road property from residential to commercial zoning.
Monday's change was based on the differences between the 20-unit plan and the new 18-unit plan. Instead of 10 duplexes the new plan consists of six triplexes, all facing Oakcrest Road along a one-way loop road entered from Oakcrest Road from its west side, and exited further east, closer to Triphammer Road. The greater density (compared to the original 12 unit plan) is the result of more buildable land due to a years-long negotiation with the Army Corps of Engineers that allows relocation of wetlands from the Lansing property to Montezuma, New York. That leaves some wetlands in the project, but no bird sanctuary.
"It's six triplexes - 18 units versus 20 units," summarized Planning Board Chair Lisa Schleelein. "That's a 10% decrease. The roadway is one-way. it's a phased project. Four triplexes by July 31st, and two by December 31, 2020. Sewer and electric and all the infrastructure, complete in Phase 1."
18 conditions of the PDA were discussed relative to the new plan. Many of them had been fulfilled, and one or two no longer apply because the mall is under new ownership. By the end of more than 90 minutes of negotiation two procedural issues threatened to delay the vote.
Code Enforcement and Zoning Officer Mike Scott suggested separating permitting the two phases, because he would be unable to issue a Certificate of Occupancy (COO) for the fourth building in Phase 1, since that would have to be contingent on the completion of the entire project, which is now set to be completed five months later. But Scott conceded that he could issue a temporary COO, valid for six months. Planning board members and the developers agreed they do not want any further negotiations on permitting for the project, both wantiing the approval to be over with.
The second procedural issue had to do with planning board member Carolyn Greenwald's motion that had been seconded, but then tabled two weeks ago. The motion was to declare the 12-unit plan of two weeks ago a 'major change'. The motion no longer applied, but could not be withdrawn because Greenwald was not present at Tuesday's meeting. The Planning Board considered either wait until a meeting she could attend, of vote on the motion (it would have been for a 'major change' and then put forward another motion declaring the new, 18-unit plan a 'minor change'. Additionally, planning board members wanted a written proposition containing the changes and conditions before voting. After much discussion about dates, the Board was about to postpone their vote until their July 8th meeting when Village Attorney William Troy suggested a third alternative.
"You do your major-minor vote right now," he advised. "Close the public hearing and vote on that. Then when we have the regular minutes the resolution will say there was a motion pending and we'll ratify what was done by everybody here. If there's an irregularity it will be corrected."
Greenwald's motion was left tabled until she can be present to withdraw it, and the new motion declaring the 18-unit plan is a 'minor change' was passed with planning board member Monica Moll abstaining. The vote cleared the way for construction to begin next Monday.