This story was written by Ithaca Voice intern Robyn Schmitz
Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca officials are hoping to prevent a piece of land near the Ithaca Falls from being developed.
Two parcels at 401 Lake Street are slated for auction by the City on June 30. The city’s Natural Areas Commission will be proposing: 1) That the parcel comprised of land be retained by the city and designated as state-protected land, and 2) That the parcel containing a house be retained by the city until the public can weigh in on how it should be used.
“The committee felt strongly that the two parcels should be retained by the city,” said Josephine Martell, the Common Council liaison to the NAC.
“One option on the table would be the possibility of having another entryway to the falls. It would be great if we retained the whole ring around the gorge and had another entryway there.”
In addition to the committee’s goal of retaining the two parcels, Martell added that the committee is trying to open the discussion to the public.
“They don’t want it to fall into inappropriate hands,” she said. “There can be so many consequences of doing that.”
Martell added that she understands that the NAC is concerned with the regulation of this area in part because the City never adopted a management plan for the “recreational river corridor” that includes the area. The current regulation does prohibit new development, but developers are allowed to seek a variance to build on the site.
“Because the land is so close to the falls, because of that grayness in the lack of adoption of a management plan, that’s where the concern comes in: Could this be challenged in court?” Martell said.
“The city has not adopted a management plan, which raises the question: Is there a legal gray area to challenge those regulations? … Could this be developed by a really tenacious individual or corporation?”
Joe McMahon, chair of the NAC, praised Martell’s efforts in protecting the area.
“Josephine Martell has been working diligently the last few weeks to help prevent the sale and have the parcel added to the natural area,” McMahon said. “It is through her efforts that we’ve found out much of what we know.”