The ITHACA, N.Y. –– Rod Howe, the former executive director of the Tompkins County History Center, has been settling into his new role as supervisor of the Town of Ithaca.

Howe served on the Town Board for one and a half terms, part of which he served as deputy supervisor. Last fall he stepped down as the executive director of The History Center in Tompkins County, having served for more than four years and helping create the Tompkins Center for History and Culture on the Commons.

A long-term resident of Forest Home, he grew up in Lansing and was previously with Cornell Cooperative Extension and was the executive director of Cornell’s Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI).  

“I am very excited to be in this new role and look forward to working with my fellow town board members, the town’s management team and sister municipalities and to hearing from town residents,” said Howe. He says the town supervisor position is a combination of political and managerial.

“I think about it as a bit of a blend between the mayor’s position and the chief of staff,” Howe said.

A few areas of focus include developing the town’s version of a Green New Deal, implementing the New Neighborhood Code (NNC), economic development, planning for the town’s 2021 bicentennial and updating the town’s emergency preparedness plan.

Howe said that in the coming years, he hopes to work closely with the City of Ithaca in order to create climate goals that align with the city’s Green New Deal, and address any unique strengths and challenges the town may have. However, the town is only in the early stages of determining what that may look like and how the partnership with the city will operate, but as of now, there is a new collaborative energy code in the works for new construction happening in both the town and city.

In terms of the NNC, Howe said that there are three areas of the town where zoning may be reevaluated to include mixed-use provisions for new developments. Those areas are the East Hill Plaza, the King Road/Danby Road intersection on South Hill and parts of West Hill from Bundy Road to south of Mecklenberg Road.

The inlet valley, the area between Buttermilk Falls and Robert Treman State Park will be a focus for Howe and the Town of Ithaca’s strategy for economic development in the immediate future. Howe said that the area has potential for businesses involving agriculture and possibly wine production and that a tentative plan is in place to start developing in 2020.

“We are excited about being more proactive with our economic development,” Howe said.

The town’s bicentennial is fast approaching, and Howe, along with an ad-hoc committee, are starting to brainstorm ways to celebrate. In 1996, as part of the Town’s 175th anniversary, the town purchased and installed 28 historic markers commemorating the local history. The committee is still in their early stages of planning. 

Additionally, the town is looking to finalize legislation regulating Airbnb rentals. In 2019 there was discussion of limiting Airbnb and other short-term rentals to 29 total nights per year, if the owner is absent from the house.

“We are hoping to finish that this year,” Howe said.

The former Town Supervisor Bill Goodman has now taken over the role of deputy supervisor, sharing in some of the responsibilities with Howe.

“I want to be able to continue to help the town out with the projects, connections and skills over the past four years,” Goodman said.

Goodman, a former attorney and organizer at the Ecovillage, is now in his twelfth year on the town board –– the last four of which he served as supervisor.

One of the projects that he will be tasked with seeing through is the creation of sidewalk districts in Forest Home and the northeast neighborhoods, which has been underway for several years and has gained some traction under his leadership.

Goodman believes that Howe will serve the role of supervisor well because of his long history with the area.

“He has connections,” Goodman said. “He’s a native while a lot of us are transplants.”

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com