Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column written by Brian Crandall, who runs the blog “Ithacating in Cornell Heights.”

To write a response, contact me at jstein@ithacavoice.com.

— Jeff Stein

Ithaca Is Bluegrass Jan. 23-25

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Column from Crandall:

Finally, some drawings for the 102-unit Cayuga Farms townhouse project in Lansing can now be seen here, thanks to the Lansing Star. They look like a bit like the stereotypical “McMansions” that happen to have shared walls, and the rental price for the 2 and 3-bedroom units has the mansion part covered – $1800-$2200/month. If you use the 30% rule of affordable housing, that means the a household in the cheapest unit is expected to pull in $72,000/year. To quote the project engineer, Timothy Buhl:

“The idea is to capture the transient market of people coming from urban areas to work at the colleges,” Buhl said.  “They would ultimately buy a house, but don’t know where to locate.  We’re looking for young, two-worker families.  It’s an in-between type of rental of higher-end people that we’re looking for.”

In other words, “affordability” is not a word you’ll see in this conversation. The Cayuga Farms project was initially proposed several years ago as 144 townhouse condos (I miscounted and said 138 at the time), but the market for suburban high-end townhouse condos is pretty limited – there is Ivar Jonson’s Heights of Lansing which since 2006 has sold ~17 of the 70+ proposed townhouse units, and Woodland Park, which in three years has built ~6 of 48 planned. The market is virtually non-existent, hence rentals.

On the town’s website, there’s all sorts of other data uploaded: trail recommendations, on-site sewage system details, traffic generation estimates, erosion and sediment control plans, environmental review forms and so forth.

Cayuga Farms is multi-phased, with 3-4 phases from 2015-2021; phase 1 will have 44 units. Since Lansing is at capacity on its natural gas pipeline, residents will be using propane appliances until the new natural gas pipeline from NYSEG is routed in.

This project already gets dinged in my book for having 354 parking spaces when zoning requires only 153 (1.5 spaces per unit). Every unit gets 3.5 parking spaces. That seems like overkill. Anyway, the planning board reviewed the SEQR on the 12th, which is a big step towards approval of the townhouse development. My gut feeling is, while there’s no doubt Ithaca needs housing in most market segments, a high-end rental unit where you have to drive to everywhere bundles just about every criticism about local development into one convenient package.

Let’s be honest, I’m generally pro-development. But I do have a short list of projects I don’t support. This is one of them. With the sprawl, gobs of parking, and mediocre design, I question its value to the Lansing community.


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Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.