ITHACA, NY – Those fighting for the “Soul of Collegetown” suffered a defeat on Monday, when a lawsuit filed against the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board and an Ithaca developer was dismissed, according to a report from WHCU.
The lawsuit had been the latest in an ongoing battle between Neil Golder, who lives at 203 College Avenue, and developer Todd Fox’s Visum Developer Group. Golder filed the suit hoping to block, or at least delay, construction of a new 44-unit, 74-bedroom apartment building proposed for 201 College Avenue.
In the lawsuit, Golder alleged that the planning board failed to take a “hard look” at the relevant areas of environmental impact and failed to provide a “reasoned elaboration” for its decision to declare no environmental significance and their determination that the project would have no significant impacts was therefore “unlawful, arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”
If Golder had won, the developers may have been forced to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a process which could take several months and offer more opportunities for public input. For context, no other recent developments in Collegetown have required an EIS.
The judge dismissed the lawsuit on the basis that the site plan on which the lawsuit was based was only a preliminary one, according to the WHCU report. Golder says he could refile the lawsuit depending on how the project proceeds.
The battle continues
Golder has for months been leading a movement to “Save the Soul of Collegetown,” as he believes the building is fundamentally out of character in the neighborhood. It also has a number of negative impacts on Golder himself, such as casting his home in shadow, marginalizing his solar panels and cutting the light to his garden.
While losing this lawsuit hurts his cause, the 201 College Avenue project still has some hurdles to clear.
Last month, the project team told the planning board they hoped to get final approval by early August.
However, board member John Schroeder brought a new issue to the board’s attention — an apparent issue in the reading of the Collegetown form-based zoning code.
While city planning staff and the developer’s project team had interpreted the code one way, Schroeder argued that that reading made no sense. Under his alternative reading, the 201 College Avenue project, as proposed, would not meet the requirements set forth in the code.
Several other members of the board were uncomfortable proceeding based on this new information, so the issue was forwarded to the Board of Zoning Appeals for consideration. This means it may not go back before the planning board for final approval until the end of September.