TRUMANSBURG, N.Y. — For anyone in the Trumansburg and Ulysses area, the mixed-income, mixed-use Hamilton Square project has been the talk of the town – and with enough simmering opinions and boiling tempers to heat all the coffee pots at Gimme! for a month. INHS is hoping some project revisions will assuage enough of the concerns to eventually allow the project to move forward.

A new site plan was presented to the Village of Trumansburg Planning Board last Thursday. The meeting was held at Trumansburg Elementary, because the fire hall’s lack of parking and smaller size made accommodating large crowds a safety hazard. The meeting was billed as a work session, with no decisions planned, but to give the community an opportunity to see the latest plans INHS had spoke of in emails before the meeting.

From a strictly quantitative glance, not a whole lot has changed. The project, the work of INHS and local architect/developer Claudia Brenner, is still the same as before – 14 market-rate for-sale homes, 11 affordable for-sale homes, and 47 affordable apartments for low-to-moderate income households. As with the last iteration, the plan still allots space for a 4,500 square-foot nursery school to be operated by the Trumansburg Community Nursery School non-profit group.

Old site plan (left), proposed concept plan A (right).

Once one gets past the numbers and look at the plans, however, the new concepts are quite noticeably different. Whereas the original plan had a fairly orthodox, rectangular street grid with two entrances and exits, the new plan is essentially a large, circular cul-de-sac. In other words, Hamilton Square is no longer a square.

The number of building clusters was reduced from 29 to 19, and the units were scrunched closer together, away from neighboring parcels. Apartments would be located in two two-story apartment buildings of about 18-19 units each at the center, with for-sale housing and small housing clusters (“pocket neighborhoods”) accessed by courtyards and community greens.

The primary difference between the two concept plans is minor. Plan A has a grass strip that allows for emergency vehicle access and a utilities easement; Plan B has a paved private driveway. The building designs were not explicitly updated, but are likely similar to previous renders – traditional looking gables, porches, dormers and other details to blend the houses and apartments in with Trumansburg’s much older housing stock.

Pulling the buildings closer accomplishes a couple of tasks; for one, less visual impacts on neighbors by moving buildings further away and reducing the number of mature trees that would be cut down to make room for homes. The area to be disturbed drops by 20%, about 4 acres. For two, although not touted in the materials, with a shorter total road length and shared walls, the project becomes more cost efficient per unit. Fewer roads also means less stormwater runoff, and TWMLA, the landscape architects, turned the stormwater management area into low-intensity recreation space (trails, low-maintenance fields).

Will this win some folks over? Good question. But with the additional feedback and commentary, INHS and Claudia Brenner’s project team will incorporate as they see fit, and the Trumansburg community will hash and rehash until the refined concept takes another trip to the village planning board. Comments and questions can be submitted to the project team here.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at