ITHACA, NY – After a months-long debate over a Collegetown apartment project turned into a battle over zoning minutiae, the City of Ithaca is taking another look at the zoning in Collegetown to ensure that that the intent for the neighborhood is clearer.

The apartment at 201 College Avenue is now set to proceed, but it was almost derailed when Ithaca Planning Board member John Schroeder pointed out a possible misinterpretation of the city’s Collegetown Area Form District code. The debate boiled down to how one interpreted the term “building facade” and whether or not a building could more than one facade. It seemed like a small semantic issue but ultimately would set an important precedent for future Collegetown development.

The proposed changed is straightforward — it would change the restriction on “facade length” to a restriction on “building length” and clarify that the restriction refers primary street-facing side of the building only. Accompanying diagrams would also be updated as needed.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Ithaca Planning and Economic Development Committee, city planner Megan Wilson noted that these changes were a temporary fix to address some of the confusion that had occurred over the requirements, brought to light by the debate over 201 College Avenue.

In particular, Wilson said that the planning department wanted more time to work out the specifics for non-primary sides of a building in the more densely developable zones in Collegetown, such as the MU-1 zone where 201 College Avenue is located. This would mean creating guidelines that strike a balance between allowing a developer to make full use of a property while also encouraging good design practices and aesthetics.

The committee voted to circulate the proposed changes, so they will return to the committee next month with more feedback. The planning department will continue to take a more intensive look at the zoning and will propose an updated set of design guidelines for Collegetown in the coming months.

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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.