We are providing live updates from a highly attended meeting about a controversial development on Ithaca’s Spencer Road.

Proponents of the development say low-income housing like this project is crucial to help Ithaca’s poor and make the city an affordable place to live.

Opponents say it’s the wrong project for the wrong site at the wrong time. They have raised environmental and a bevy of other concerns.

For background on the project, see here.


Update 8:20 p.m. —

The planning board has unanimously approved the controversial Spencer Road apartment complex.

Residents of the area in the audience had punctuated the discussion with disgusted sighs. When the decision was announced, they immediately left the room.

Update 8:15 p.m.

The proposal seems likely to pass.

Isabel Fernandez, of the planning board, joins a chorus suggesting that they’ll vote to pass the project.

“It will be good for the city of Ithaca to have more affordable housing,” she said.

Still, Fernandez said she doesn’t believe the proposal first the character of the neighborhood. She also joined planning board member McKenzie Jones-Rounds in lamenting the divisive nature of the fight over the development.

“I share McKenzie’s feelings of sadness about how this whole project has gone about,” Fernandez said.

Update 8 p.m.

John Schroeder, a planning board member, says his questions about the project have been answered.

“I think it’s time to move forward,” Schroeder said.

It sounds like he will vote in favor of the proposal.

Update 7:55 p.m. —

The planning board is now considering the proposal.

“I stay awake sometimes at night thinking about how difficult this project has been…” Jones-Rounds said by way of introduction.

“There has been a lot of pointing out the way the project has gone wrong … what we’re trying to do around this table is continually move forward.”

“Whatever decision is made tonight is made with the best intentions for the city, for the people who live on Spencer Road and for the people who don’t live on Spencer Road.”

Update 7:45 p.m. —

Alderperson Cynthia Brock is now speaking in front of the planning board.

She said that the contamination approved for cleanup by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation does not cover all the site’s contamination.

Her fellow ward-member, George McGonigal, has also said he doesn’t want the controversial affordable housing project to pass.

“…I ask that you extend the public hearing to allow the community to provide written comment,” Brock said.

Update 7:40 p.m. —

A former resident of The Jungle has expressed that he wants the project to pass. Affordable housing, he said, is crucial to help the downtrodden.

“There are so many homeless people” in Ithaca, the man said.

“I don’t think we have to live like that.”

Update 7:15 p.m. — 

Mayor Myrick gave an emotional appeal for the city to pass the development. We’ll be providing more updates about his speech later.

Update 7:10 p.m. — 

One local resident of the area, like several others, has expressed strong opposition to the Stone Quarry project.

“Establishing a remediation plan based on an incomplete analysis is foolhardy and irresponsible,” Jean Sutherland said, according to prepared remarks sent to The Voice.

Update 7 p.m. — 

Michael Cannon, a board member of the Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, spoke in favor of the proposal.

“I celebrate the diversity of my neighborhood, and I hope that we can all celebrate the diversity of this neighborhood,” Cannon said.

“…This is a tremendous success for Ithaca.”


Earlier —

Ithaca, N.Y. — Representatives of a controversial development on Ithaca’s Spencer Road have laid out why confusion has erupted over toxic contamination at the site over the last few weeks.

Here’s what the confusion was:

Ithaca officials first said that a state review of toxics found at the site was closed. Then the state said it was open, and that the city still needed to submit a cleanup plan for the controversial Stone Quarry Apartment complex.

The city recognized that they had the incorrect information. But it wasn’t clear why: Who had caused the confusion? Was it the fault of the city or the state?

Here’s why it happened, according to an official speaking for the development project:

1 — The site’s engineer told the state about the toxins after discovering what the official characterized as minor contamination.

2 — The state opened a spill site to review the development, but mistakenly gave it two spill sites: one on Spencer Road and one on Elmira Road.

3 — The state agreed to close the review of the spill, but only did so for one of the two addresses. That left the second one erroneously listed as open.

4 — The DEC has since consolidated the two spill files, the official said.

“This is not complicated in terms of remediation,” the official said, “you dig it up and you haul it away it will go to an approved landfill.”

Here’s where the development now:

As we post this story, a few dozen Ithacans are attending a City Hall meeting of the planning board.

Most appear ready to speak out against the development for reasons that span the above mentioned environmental concerns to other neighborhood concerns.

Last month, the planning board tabled one of the final hurdles for the project.

We’ll update this story as the meeting progresses.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.