ITHACA, NY – The path forward for Maguire’s proposed new dealership at the Carpenter Business Park got a little bit narrower on Wednesday night.
The Common Council chambers were once again filled to capacity with concerned citizens and Maguire employees during the Ithaca Planning and Development Committee Meeting. On Wednesday, the committee was to vote whether or not to recommend that the project met the the city’s comprehensive plan.
After about an hour of discussion, the committee voted 4-0 to pass a resolution stating that the Maguire project did not conform to the city’s comprehensive plan. (Alderperson Josephine Martell was absent, though she had submitted a letter opposing the project.)
Here’s what that means on a practical level:
- the Maguire project is subject to Common Council approval as part of the Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development (the TM-PUD was set up to allow Council control over the developing “waterfront study area” while new zoning is put into place)
- the resolution stating that the project does not fit with the city’s comprehensive plan will pass to council for a final vote
- it’s generally expected that Common Council will vote yes or no on that resolution, but they also have the option to send it back to committee or amend it
- if it passes as recommended, then this proposal will be dead and Maguire would have to submit a new one if they wanted to continue on this path
Committee chair Alderperson Seph Murtagh said that this has been a difficult discussion since the Maguire is a local company with a good relationship with the city. However, he added that the level of opposition to the project form the public has been “unprecedented” — in addition to all those who spoke during public comment periods, the city received over 200 letters of opposition and a 170-signature petition from the Northside community.
Pushing for more time
When the issue was last discussed in September, Maguire President Phil Maguire told the committee, “I would appreciate it if you could at least put us in the game, or take us out.”
During this meeting, however, Maguire seemed more reluctant to get that straight answer. Before the discussion began, Maguire’s lawyer said that the vote should be postponed on procedural grounds because there should have been a published public notice about the meeting.
The committee disagreed on that point of order, but Phil Maguire explained the reasoning behind the request for a delay. Maguire said that his company has been completely open to working with the city in whatever way possible to help get this project into an acceptable state. He felt that the system created by the TM-PUD did not leave enough room for this kind of negotiation, since the company could only present a basic version of the project before potentially being shot down by the TM-PUD.
Maguire was essentially asking to delay the vote so that they could make another pass at the project to bring it more in line with something the city would be willing to approve.
While Aldersperson Cynthia Brock made a motion to table the vote, it did not get a second. Murtagh said that Maguire would have an opportunity to amend the proposal further before the next Common Council meeting.
The Planning and Economic Development Committee members were grateful to Maguire for their willingness to be flexible, but overall their opinion had not changed from last month: it simply was not a fit with the vision the city had for this space.
However, the project is not without support. Alderperson George McGonigal, who is not on the committee but came to the meeting due to his interest in the project, said that he was in support of the project in some form, particularly since housing wasn’t really a viable option for the site. Alderperson Donna Fleming also submitted a letter in support of the proposal.
“This is not saying that this will not go further, what we’re saying here … is our judgement of whether it fits with the comprehensive plan. Our colleagues on council may have different opinions,” said Alderperson Graham Kerslick. “My vote here is saying I don’t think this is a good starting point, I want to give you a clear message that something has to change.”
While the project will be headed to council with at least five likely votes against it, the door isn’t firmly slammed shut just yet. And even if the Carpenter Business Park proposal fails, Maguire says that the business needs to expand, and they will be working with the city to find another suitable home for a new dealership.