LANSING, N.Y. — Give them points for persistence. After their original proposals and modifications were turned down by the Village of Lansing Planning Board, the Beer family is back with a revised plan for senior cottages on the Millcroft property, in the hopes that this latest attempt gets that coveted vote of approval.

The Lansing senior cottages project, being developed by Beer Properties in conjunction with Hunt Engineers, was originally proposed as 108 units, and later reduced to 97 units in 84 buildings (71 single-family, 13 two-family) on about 41 acres owned by the Bush family. However, the plans were designed as clusters of cottages around common areas, not unlike the Boiceville Cottages in Caroline. To move forward as a pocket-neighborhood housing development with houses closer together than permitted under the village of Lansing’s residential zoning, it would have needed a Planned Development (PDA) designation from the Planning Board.

The Planning Board has eight criteria to establish a PDA, and felt that the project didn’t meet four of the criteria (maximum choice in ownership types and occupancy tenure, convenience in location of non-residential facilities, efficient use of land, and desirable change in environment), and was therefore insufficient to merit a PDA. In February, a revised version with 40 cottages and 11 single-family home lots was introduced, but that was quickly rejected as well. The vote to deny the PDA also stopped the project because neither design was possible in Lansing’s medium-density zone. The density of 97 units was legal, albeit that’s the maximum allowed. But the zoning law states those 84 buildings had to be on their own, non-clustered lots, with setbacks, minimum road frontage and so forth. In other words, a conventional suburban subdivision.

The site was originally approved for just such a project, the high-end, three-phase 31-lot Millcroft development, of which only the first phase was ever platted and prepped before the Great Recession kicked in and the market for very large, very expensive homes shrank. The Bush family’s deed covenants limited homes to 2,500 square-feet or greater and was clearly geared toward high-end homes. However, the lots lack the combination of acreage or lake views that are the usual prerequisites of Lansing’s luxury home sales. Well over a decade later, and the 13 home lots in phase one still have yet to be fully built out.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Millcroft land went up for sale in 2017. When the Beer family bought a purchase option from the Bushes, it was not well received by the earlier lot buyers, and Millcroft Lane residents have been strongly opposed the 800-1,200 SF senior cottages.

The latest proposal attempts to find some common ground with the issues that shut down the first two attempts. For one, the layout is more similar to a conventional suburban division, but instead of clustered cottages, it would be clustered home lots, which allows the lots to be a little smaller in exchange for the preservation of a greater amount of open natural space. In the latest proposal, about 20% of the 40 acres would remain undeveloped, and another 6% would be common areas for a meeting house, green space and a walking trail.

The proposal would still allow for up to 84 senior cottage units, though it might be less in practice. Eight of the lots, marked “O.O.” on the site plan above, border existing homes and would be sold off for whatever owner-occupied single-family or two-family homes the buyer wishes to build. That allows for some transition space between existing neighboring homes and the smaller senior homes. The remaining 34 lots would be developed in phases as senior rentals (duplex units age-restricted to 55+, with all units ADA accessible). Renters would pay into an HOA for maintenance of common spaces and landscaping.

This plan sidesteps the PDA that stopped the earlier plans because it’s all legal within zoning code. The village could push for larger conventional lots, but then they lose the natural areas to those bigger home lots, so it’s a matter of what the village’s priorities are.

The plan is still in its early stages, and a second “Developer’s Conference”, Lansing’s version of a sketch plan, is planned so that more formal details can be discussed, and potentially the review process can begin. Without the need for a PDA, the path is somewhat easier, but never a sure thing. Review of the project, including to be submitted engineering plans and revised designs, will likely take several months.

Brian Crandall

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