Image property of the Lansing Star

LANSING, N.Y. — It’s been almost a decade since the Lansing Meadows project began discussions with the village of Lansing. With the latest set of proposed changes, the village planning board’s simmering discontent is now a raging boil.

Readers may recall that Lansing Meadows is a combination retail, senior housing and environmental remediation project, proposed by developer Eric Goetzmann of Triax Management Group, and first reviewed by the village in 2010. Rather controversially, the project applied for and received tax abatements in 2011, after failing to win approval in its first attempt. Its most visible component, the BJ’s Wholesale Club, opened in 2012. The housing component was to be built on wetlands accidentally created by the mall’s construction, and in order to do that, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to sign off on the new wetlands to ensure they were adequate quality and a sufficient replacement. These were completed in late 2016.

Now comes the problematic part. During the review process and the first couple years of work, the plan was for twelve single-family senior (age 55+) housing units. Over time, the plan changed, from single-family, to five triplexes, to ten duplexes. Later, the plan was modified to create a small commercial component, like a coffee shop, at the eastern edge of the property. The planning board was hesitant about adding commercial space, but agreed to the request.

Image property of the Lansing Star

Since then, the plans have been less well received. A three-story, 30-unit apartment building garnered a chilly reception last year. As reported by Dan Veaner at the Lansing Star, the latest proposal has fared little better – two townhouse strings, six units each, but clustered at one end of the property. While Goetzmann says he has no intent to develop the vacant land, he was not willing to agree to protections to keep the balance of the land from being developed. Which means that if the latest plan is approved, he could sell it for a tidy sum to someone who would.

That seems to be what the crux of the latest debate boils down to. Goetzmann was previously issued a permit to build a single-family unit, likely a “spec unit” to show to prospective residents. But it never moved forward. Goetzmann has told the board the single-family unit plans no longer work financially.

“The planning board is frustrated with the fact that Mr. Goetzmann listens to their comments, but only takes a few of them into regard. This is not what the village thought they were getting for several years. A bird habitat, a small playground maybe for visiting family members…this is the opposite of what they’ve been shown, they feel the rug has been pulled out from under them,” said village Code Enforcement and Zoning Officer Adam Robbs. “The village has spent ten years on this project and it hasn’t been completed. The commercial aspect is done, but the residential has taken a back seat.”

Robbs added that the revised plans will be the topic of a public hearing on March 12th, along with revisions to previous environmental assessment forms. He was unsure how the meeting would go, but was hopeful that the public would attend and share their thoughts before the board takes a vote at the next meeting on the 27th. “The basic feeling I’m getting from members and the village is that this is not what they want, but they’re going to have to speak up.”

Meanwhile, Goetzmann is also facing legal action pursued by the IDA. When he was awarded the tax abatement, he had to fulfill his end of the deal in a reasonable time frame – the commercial, residential, and wetland components. Having failed to do so, the IDA is considering declaring Goetzmann in default, which would forfeit the abatement. Goetzmann would have to pay the abated taxes, or else face legal repercussions. Media requests for comment from Goetzmann received no response.

While the village would like to see the originally-planned housing come to fruition, it’s not the only project on their agenda – coincidentally, twelve townhouses are being planned next to Sevanna Park, as well as concept plans for a mixed commercial and residential project at 2416 North Triphammer Road, and an extended-stay hotel behind the Ramada Inn. “It’s kinda a hub at the moment,” said Robbs.

Brian Crandall

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