ITHACA, NY – During a Wednesday meeting, Ithaca’s Planning and Economic Development Committee (PEDC) took a step forward in the city’s efforts to guide the future of Ithaca’s waterfront.

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The committee voted unanimously in favor of the Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development, or TM-PUD. The proposal will go before the next session of Ithaca’s Common Council for approval.

If passed, the resolution would give Common Council final approval over any development in the area that would increase a building’s footprint by 50 percent or more.

Related: Ithaca Common Council looks into tighter control of West End development

The approval process would be guided by the city’s Comprehensive Plan, passed in September. Part of that plan included a vision for the waterfront as “a more walkable, dense, mixed-use waterfront.”

According to PEDC Chair Seph Murtagh, the waterfront and West End are areas “in transition” and  “in search of an identity.”

The transition isn’t just a metaphorical one – the city is in the process of revising zoning for the whole area. In the meantime, the TM-PUD will serve as an 18-month safeguard to ensure that any incoming developments fit with the city’s goals while they investigate how best to rezone the area.

Currently, the waterfront sees a variety of uses – there’s the Community Gardens and the Waterfront Trail, but also industrial areas like the wastewater treatment plant, Suburban Propane and the NYS Department of Transportation facility.

The TM-PUD would give the Common Council the power to vote down larger developments in the area that do not fit with the city’s goals. This could potentially include the contentious Maguire car dealership that the company recently proposed for the area.

As written in the ordinance, “The City Comprehensive Plan identifies the goals for the Waterfront Mixed Use area as the creation of a mixed use district, including commercial, and housing, with an emphasis on uses that create an active waterfront environment.”

Murtagh said that it would fall on Maguire to make the case that the a dealership would fit in with the city’s comprehensive plan goals, which he suggested would be an uphill battle for the company.

“A car dealership was not really in anybody’s vision for the waterfront,” said Murtagh.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.