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v20120131_120A joint Planning Board and Trustees meeting at the Village of Lansing attracted a large crowd Tuesday who came to oppose a proposed development near Dart Drive.  The Lansing Reserve project proposes to build 65 townhouses to a 23 acre parcel north of Dart Drive.  At the end of last year the Village put their consideration of the project on hold while the Tompkins County Planning Department developed a Request For Proposals (RFP) Village officials will use to hire a consulting firm to study zoning, traffic, acces, and other needs for the area.  Mayor Donald Hartill hoped to discuss the five proposals that resulted Tuesday, and identify a firm to engage to conduct the study.

"They all appear to be very responsive and satisfy any of the objections that I have heard this evening," Hartill said.  "And I see no reason for delay unless we don't have a clear picture as to which company we want to choose, in which case I suggest we delay until next week."

The Village used the RFP the County developed to solicit 20 consulting companies to send proposals.   Five responded, ranging from $18,000 to more than $100,000 with proposed time scales from seven weeks to a year.

Discussion centered on access to the proposed development, and traffic impact to the existing neighborhood. 

"It's going to adversely impact me especially if they start adding traffic on Dart Drive," one resident complained.  "We already have a problem there.  Our kids can't play in our yards because we have so much traffic, especially at lunch time when Borg Warner is going to lunch."

Village officials noted that for years the Village has tried to negotiate an agreement with Northwoods Apartments to convey their private road to the Village to be expanded and maintained by the Village.  The hope was to connect the neighborhood to Warren road via Northwoods Drive, then close off the east end of Dart Drive to make it a cul de sac because its proximity to Route 13 makes the existing intersection dangerous.  But at a public meeting last july several Northwoods representatives made it crystal clear that they are not interested in giving up their road.

"I don't think anybody has criticized your organization for that decision," Village Attorney David Dubow said Tuesday.  "It was helpful to the Village to know that decision is that we shouldn't continue discussions for that road to become a public road.  Thereby the Village has to look for other alternatives, and that's what they're trying to do."

A connection through Bomax Drive between Triphammer Road and Warren Road will be completed in the coming construction season as part of phase two of the Lansing Trails project.  While that road is farther away from the proposed development than Northwoods Drive, connecting to it in some way may be a solution to the traffic issue.  Rights of way from the property to Dart Drive may be inadequate for use as primary access roads.

The project is being developed by NRP Group and will be managed by Better Housing for Tompkins County.  While financing has not yet been obtained for the project, Village officials have been under pressure from neighbors to stop it.  But Hartill and Trustees say that any Village resident has the right to develop his or her property, and the law prescribes the steps elected officials must take when presented with a project.

"In New York State any property owner has the right to develop their property as long as it satisfies the zoning laws applicable to that area," Hartill said in a statement he emailed to interested parties last week. "In the Village of Lansing the process starts when a property owner comes to the Village Code and Zoning Enforcement Officer with a proposed development. If the proposal fits within the zoning for that particular parcel, it is referred to the Village Planning Board for further consideration. There is then a detailed review of the proposal and if it satisfies all the conditions imposed by the Planning Board and the Zoning Officer the project can proceed. Adjacent property owners can and do provide input to the approval process but do not have the right to demand unreasonable conditions for approval. The construction of the infrastructure within the project is the responsibility of the developer. This includes the water and sewer mains and any roadways and sidewalks. When the project is complete and the infrastructure meets our Village engineering requirements, the infrastructure is dedicated to the Village and it is then the Village’s responsibility to maintain that infrastructure."

v20120131_400Trustees and Planning Board members hear public comment on a study to be conducted on their neighborhood that will impact Village officials' deliberation on a 65 unit development proposal.

Residents complained they didn't have time to review the RFP before the December meeting, and asked for changes in it.  Some voiced opposition to any increased traffic in their neighborhood, while others accused Village officials of bias toward NRP Group's project and lying to State officials and the public to promote it.  One resident asked that the board table their decision for a month or two to let the public study the proposals before a firm is hired to do the study.  But one resident argued the board is doing what it is supposed to, to gather information in order to make informed decisions about the project and related issues they are legally obligated to consider.

"It sounds to me like you don't want this to go ahead at any cost.  That seems extreme to me," he said.  "These folks  are your representatives, trying to do their job, trying to set up a process to get information.  It sounds to me like you are saying don't get information because we want to give you different information. I'm hearing a lot of pushing, but not a lot of understanding."

Trustees decided to table the decision until next Monday's Board of Trustees meeting.

Reporting and photos by Karen Veaner

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