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Caseythoughts It wasn't too long ago (maybe about two weeks or so) that I was driving south on Route 96 from Trumansburg back to Ithaca. At a decrepit and abandoned building that was formerly a notorious 'bar', just as the speed limit turns to 55, that a hand-drawn sign faced me, attached apparently by nails to the former bar's roadside marquee. It stated: "Trumansburg is not the capital of Ithaca. Stop INHS." The opposite side, facing incoming traffic sported a sign that stated, basically, "Trumansburg needs single family housing and senior housing. Stop Hamilton Square." Both signs professed their ignorance, and perhaps even latent racism (especially the handwritten one). In Trumansburg?? Let me explain.

I decamped from Trumansburg over a year ago for quiet, personal reasons, but still maintain strong and lasting connections, even loving connections, with that little Burg. Many people consider Trumansburg as a bastion of 'village-ness', quaintness, in a way, a legacy of the 60's in some respects. The Rongo (currently dead in the water, again), a lot of aging hippies (sorry, I mean baby-boomers), some artists and a plethora of nice Greek Revival homes. Known for an excellent school district, and a lot of talent resides in that village of about 1800 souls.

But to many of us who consider ourselves open-minded, a real ruckus has erupted over a very forward looking and liberal, intelligent woman who saw a very real and serious need in Trumansburg: what is currently known as 'affordable housing'. Anyone who has tried to find a reasonably priced rental, or for that matter a reasonably priced house for sale in Trumansburg knows the problem: an extremely limited housing supply has bumped rents sky-high. People who work on Main Street certainly cannot afford to live/rent in Trumansburg on a minimum wage, or, for that matter, on what is euphemistically called a 'live-able wage'.

Trumansburg has two small senior living complexes (with waiting lists over a year) and practically no vacant housing options. In addition almost no housing has been built ( a few exceptions, possibly numbering four or five single family homes) in the past four or five years, with plenty of empty, undeveloped land in the village. Trumansburg's population has hardly budged in years, and its school enrollment has dropped dramatically, while the village and town taxes have continued to rise due to a lack of new housing and inevitable rising evaluations.

Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services took on the idea of building "Hamilton Square": nineteen acres of wooded, undeveloped land, perfect for an opportunity to work up a housing development with appropriate density and affordable units for rent and sale, practically in the center of the village (but residential in character) and this proposal was a 'mixed use' village with apartments, condos, townhouses, market rate single homes and a community center which would house a child care center.

Carefully planned and well within village, town and county planning ideals, less than two blocks from TBurg Central School, four blocks or so from Main Street, with opportunities for elderly, retired, handicapped, economically disadvantaged and others who were employed to have access to good, nice, affordable housing with TCAT availability, shopping access and walkability to a great school complex.

Village advantage?? A noticeable increase of tax paying population, a significant potential increase of school aged children, an increase in the tax base, and the stellar reputation of INHS renters and buyers. Those who wish to be considered for INHS rentals are screened with references, advised on credit matters, potential home buyers, and are usually gainfully employed. They just can't afford to live in Trumansburg, or, for that matter, frequently cannot afford to even live in Tompkins County (over 30% of those employed in Tompkins County live in neighboring counties due to cost of rent). In other words, it sure looks like a win-win for Trumansburg, yes??

Well, look again. Somehow, liberal, forward-looking Trumansburg is up in arms. They have practically shouted down INHS at three community meetings, and demanded study after study, downsize after downsize, revision after revision, and now claim to have obtained 600 signatures (all village residents?? Highly doubtful, methinks) demanding that Hamilton Square be stopped. Even when information is available on INHS website debunking all of the petition whiners' objections (too big, too much traffic, not in character of the village) they continue to yell the same arguments which we have heard before in other municipalities which ring hollow.

Too big? 19 acres with less than a total of 70 family units is well within the most restrictive of zoning requirements (and, by the way, as the whiners continue to demand smaller and smaller size, they are well aware that eventually it would become too small to be viable, and this is their nefarious intent, it seems). Undeveloped land, this 19 acres: it already has water, sewer (a brand new village water treatment plant has excess capacity for a development like this, at the cost of millions). "Too much traffic"?? Well, the petition whiners demanded a traffic study, and there on the INHS website are the results of the study: NYSDOT found 'no significant impact' in the traffic flows or numbers with the addition of Hamilton Square, especially since TCAT route stops could alleviate any issues in this regard, and would even precipitate additional TCAT runs in the village. "Not in character with the village"?? The architectural plans were specifically designed with surrounding homes in the village carefully studied and emulated. A large number of the present wooded cover on the land would be retained and supplanted with additional trees, and the whole plan was revised to attempt to keep the petition whiners happy. No dice, they are demanding (in so many words, to stop further advance on the plan, even when their objections have been met.

Now, these petition carriers aren't saying "Stop Hamilton Square" and more than one of these people have denied to a reporter that they had no intention of suing the village as they demanded Freedom of Information emails, but looking at movements like this in other areas of Tompkins County, these people will do practically anything to slow down and hopefully stop anything like this from happening in the village, perhaps even the town. The same petition whiners also tried to stop the Byrne Dairy from opening in the village ( a real boon to sales tax receipts for the village and town, a good neighbor and occupying a previously abandoned lot at the 'gateway' to the village. I am reminded of that covert and legendary Tompkins County group known as C.A.V.E.: Citizens Against Virtually Everything, or is it B.A.N.A.N.A.? Build Almost Nothing At or Near Anything. These petition carrier/signers don't want anything to change the precious and unchangeable character of a village that they have become comfortable with. Don't change anything, and especially don't let anyone live here that I don't necessarily approve of. But, I'm fairly convinced that it's more than an attitude of anti-change.

If you take a look at Main Street Trumansburg, whether it's at one of the cafes, the laundromat, the bowling alley, the churches, the liquor stores, the library, you're going to notice the age of the people: it's getting older, grayer. This is also noted in the couple of hundred less children in TBurg's schools, and the average age of the Trumansburg resident is rising inexorably. You'll see it in the census numbers as well as well as your own visible evidence in Shur-Save or Kinney's. And, by the way, these aging baby boomers are also INHS's prime target, as the average age of the INHS resident is 50, according to their website.

But, it's more than the color of their hair. It's the color of their skin. Trumansburg is lily white. And I have a dark feeling that many of those petition whiners (as well as the person who put up the sign about Trumansburg not being the capital of Ithaca) don't want people who don't look like them frequenting TBurg's Main Street, homes and business. People who might move into Hamilton Square might not be as lily white as Trumansburg wants to stay. That handwritten sign, though weirdly ignorant, is not so stupid as it first seems. It came down fairly quickly, perhaps because someone recognized its latent racism, a reference to people who rightfully need help with decent housing, perhaps even a reference to Ithaca's African American mayor and/or African American police chief.

It's a shame, Trumansburg, that somehow you've fallen prey to what seems to so often happen these days: Instead of being 'for' something, you are once again 'against' something. The only thing I've seen Trumansburg 'for' recently is another revival of a failing hippie sixties bar: an empty space on Main Street known as the Rongo, even to the extent of crowd funding its doomed re-opening.

A chance to be 'for' adequate and affordable housing in the village for young couples with children, retired people on limited income who want to stay active in the village, housing within walking distance of Main Street and school, continuing to support TBurg school efforts at adult learning classes, a brand new community center with certified child care. 'For'... sound good? Why can't you be 'FOR' something? The petition whiners are against this. They will deny this, but after rejecting the attempts at downsizing and appeasement, they are now resorting to intimidating the village mayor, the town supervisor and the planning board with FOIA demands and placards/signs citing themselves as 'TBNA': Trumansburg Neighborhood Association. Some neighbors, some association, huh? As long as your neighbors look like you, all well and good, right?

And, shame on you, Trumansburg, for not wanting to share your good and wonderful bounty with others who perhaps are not as fortunate. The beautiful village atmosphere, the availability of services which enhance your lives as residents, the availability of one of the best school districts in the area, the safety of an excellent police force. You just don't wish to share that good fortune with others, do you?

You seem willing to cut off your nose to spite your face, dear petition whiners. Rising property and school taxes are not just a result of rising assessments: they are also due to a lack of expansion of the property base in the village so the taxes can be more equitably shared and to distribute the bounty that is enjoyed by relatively few property owners in the village; kind of a mini Cayuga Heights, in a way. Those bumper stickers seen in Trumansburg that blast the '1%' don't seem to take into account that current residents of Trumansburg are much better off financially than they might admit, and much better off than the people in the surrounding area (and those who are being squeezed out of the village market for rentals) and those being squeezed just want a shot at living near a great school, with a rent or mortgage payment they can afford, and have some of the marvelous benefits that many Trumansburg residents seem to want to keep for themselves. Seems you would rather scream about the 'filthy rich' than stand up for the not so lucky who want to live among you.

I remember a saying in the sixties (remember, Tburg baby boomers?) to the tune of :"If you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem". A little close to home, TBNA? Or how about something else I heard on the radio the other day. It was Peter Paul and Mary singing "If I Had A Hammer". The last verse was (remember?): "It's the hammer of Justice, it's the bell of Freedom, it's a song about a love between my brothers and sisters, all over this land..." Seems, dear Trumansburg Neighborhood Association, that you've been lip-syncing that song for years. Your current actions now have devolved into lip service to an idea and ideal that you forgot, and stopped living, a long time ago.

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