ITHACA, NY – The fate of the much-debated Maguire dealership proposed for Ithaca’s waterfront area won’t be decided for at least another month.
Ithacans crowded the Common Council chambers on Wednesday to speak about the proposal. Well over 20 people spoke over the course of about an hour and a half during the public hearing portion of the meeting.
Support was present on both sides of the issue, though it leaned heavily against the Maguire proposal.
Many reasons were expressed for opposing the project. Many have been brought up before, including the idea that a better use could be found for the site, it doesn’t fit with the city’s vision set out in the comprehensive plan, there’s too much parking, and the idea that encouraging a car dealership is harmful to the city’s goals to reduce carbon emissions.
One issue that hadn’t been touched on frequently as much was the impact of the proposed Fifth Street extension that was proposed with the project and its impact on the Northside neighborhood.
“I’m concerned because Maguire, this was an opportunity to know your diverse community,” said Phoebe Brown. “You went to the farmer’s market, you went to the Garden, but you never crossed that bridge or that highway to come see us in Northside. To ask us what we could do together.”
Some of those speaking in favor of the project argued that Ithaca turns down too many development opportunities and that the Maguire proposal would be a good economic decision for the city.
Several Maguire employees also testified to the character of Maguire as an organization, noting the positive contributions the company has made to the community and many individuals in it.
“Put us in the game, or take us out”
When it came time for the committee to weigh in many expressed the same essential concern: that the Maguire proposal did not fit with the city’s comprehensive plan.
2nd ward Alderperson George McGonigal was warmest toward the project, saying that it would provide good jobs and that the property would not be well-suited to housing as many have suggested due to its proximity to the railroad tracks and other inconveniences.
Mayor Svante Myrick also dropped into the meeting to add his input. Myrick opined on the fact that it’s easy for people on both sides of the arguments to pull excerpts from the comprehensive plan and say that the Maguire proposal did or didn’t match up.
Myrick concluded saying that, “On this spot, the community’s got a different vision. And Maguire, one of the most important businesses in the city, I think we should work with to find a location elsewhere.”
Maguire President Phil Maguire briefly addressed the comments from the public and city officials. “We didn’t intend for it to be confrontational, we didn’t intend for it to be a negative situation for our neighbors, city officials, our employees or ourselves,” Maguire said.
Maguire then expressed that he felt that the TM-PUD was unclear and urged council to be decisive moving forward.
“We spent a lot of money, we put in a lot of time, we have a very large investment and it means a lot to a lot of people,” Maguire said. “I would appreciate it if you could at least put us in the game, or take us out.”
The path forward
It seems like Maguire will have to wait at least another month to have that request granted.
Planning Committee chair Murtagh said that he felt it would be best to table the decision until next month’s meeting to process the extensive amount of public comments that had been submitted in person and in writing. The committee ultimately agreed, voting 4-1 in favor of tabling the issue.
Alderperson Josephine Martell was the lone dissenter, saying that she was prepared to vote on the issue at that point.
After the vote, the committee briefly discussed what will happen with the project moving forward and considered scenarios in which the proposal might work, or failing that, what other options could be pursued. The Planning Department may do additional analysis of the options and the specifics of how the project does or doesn’t fit the comprehensive plan. A new resolution that will likely recommend against approving the project, will go before the committee next month.
Check out some of our previous coverage below.
Background on the TM-PUD:
Background on why the proposal is controversial:
Some important details about how the Maguire plan would affect the Route 13 corridor, the Ithaca Community Gardens, and more:
A more in-depth look at the complicated relationship between Maguire, Ithaca Community Gardens and the city.