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ITHACA, N.Y. — Rumors are circulating within local government that the Maguire Family of Dealerships has purchased six properties near the Cayuga Inlet and may be eyeing the area for a car dealership, according to a city official.

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JoAnn Cornish, director of planning and economic development for the City of Ithaca, said she has heard the rumor and believes it may well be accurate, though she could not confirm the tie between Maguire and the properties.

“We don’t have confirmation that [Maguire has] purchased the properties, although it’s being talked about all over, so there is probably some truth to it,” Cornish said.

Carpenter Business Park LLC, which lists its address as the P.O. Box for Ithaca’s Miller Mayer law firm and for which no other information is available, purchased 8.22 acres of land on Carpenter Park Road and Cascadilla Road earlier this year. The six parcels of land—adjacent to North Meadow Street, south of ALDI—were purchased in August and September for slightly over $2.7 million, deeds show.

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Phil Maguire, president of the dealership, did not return multiple calls seeking comment on Thursday and Friday, and an attorney from Miller Mayer could only confirm that the properties were not purchased by the law firm itself.

The properties include an office building, a sliver of the parking lot between Cornell University Press and the Palisade Corporation, several empty plots bordering a community garden and almost all of Carpenter Park Road, which extends from Third Street.

Mayor Svante Myrick said if Maguire did buy the properties, the dealership would be able to present their plan to city review boards, but that Ithacans may have a different vision for the waterfront.

“If that’s the case, we’ll give [Maguire] a fair shake through our review process, and I think they’ve got a couple hurdles to go through,” Myrick said. “The community has been pretty clear about what it wants down there—they want housing and they want retail.”

Myrick also expressed concern about the possibility of a car dealership bordering community gardens.

“We’ve been very clear that we don’t want to displace the gardens, at least not without an alternative location that works as well, or better, for the gardens,” Myrick said.

While the area is currently an Industrial Zone, meaning any development would require approval from both the Planning and Development Board and the Board of Zoning Appeals, a recent proposal would turn the waterfront area into a Planned Unit Development Zone (PUD), meaning developers would need to work closely with Common Council on any projects.

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“If [the area] were rezoned for PUD,” Cornish said, developers would need to “present their plans to Common Council, conceptually, and Common Council would have to approve the concept in order for them to proceed through the environmental review process.”

Cornish said Common Council is “in favor of looking at rezoning all of the waterfront properties,” which she said would include the six properties rumored to be purchased by Maguire.

“We really are hoping that we are going to see interest in that area for development and redevelopment,” Cornish said. “We want to see the waterfront come alive.”

Office building purchased for $300,000, 742 Cascadilla St. (Photo by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs)
Looking North on Carpenter Park Road (Photo by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs)

While the city does want to bring developers to Ithaca’s waterfront, Myrick said it is important that any growth in the area not overshadow the site’s natural appeal.

“It’s an area of the city where people would like to live—near the farmers’ market, near the water and near the waterfront trail—but it’s not currently a commercial core,” Myrick said. “It presents an opportunity for us, but it’s not where we’re looking for large scale development.”

The Ithaca Town Board tabled a proposal from Maguire in December 2014, in which the company asked to build a dealership and corporate headquarters at the corner of Seven Mile Drive and Elmira Road. While the board wanted to make the area a PUD, Maguire wanted the area rezoned, which would have allowed the dealership more freedom in development.

Cornish said that although a dealership near the inlet would bring the city considerable revenue (the December 2014 proposal was projected to bring in more than $8 million annually in taxes), Ithacans may have some concerns about the possibility of a new dealership.

“We’re really going to have to work with [Maguire] for a plan that would be acceptable to the community,” Cornish said. “Car dealerships bring in a lot of tax revenue, but I’m not sure it’s exactly what we’ve hoped for that area.”

Brian Crandall contributed reporting.

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Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs is an intern with the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at nbogel@ithacavoice.com.