TOWN OF LANSING COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
The rural Town of Lansing is racing ahead to be the “the growth part of the Tompkins County area,” but when you look around; there’s no competition in sight — so why are they doing this?
Nothing shows the duplicitous agenda of Tompkins County government as clearly as their treatment of housing. This essay will examine housing policy statements in both the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan, and the Cornell-written Town of Lansing Comprehensive Plan.
Ithaca has been simultaneously listed as both “the best destination for students” in the American Institute of Economic Research’s list of the best college towns in the country, and as #11 in the Top 20 cities with the “least affordable rents” by the New York Times.
With its high rents, high taxes, and lack of housing already forcing 80% of their workers to live outside the City, how can Ithaca attract new businesses and provide affordable housing while keeping College revenues up and protecting those low-density, high rent urban neighborhoods with that “small town feeling” students and professors love?
Answer: Force another municipality to build the affordable housing that your workers need, and let them shoulder the cost of the schools and services; while you keep the businesses and spending in your upscale, “small town” Ithaca.
Create a “vision,” for Tompkins County and use all of your credentials and influence to sell it directly to another town government – and by the time the town’s residents wake up to what’s happening; it’s too late.
The Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan’s backers heavily and aggressively promote the creation of an “Urban Center” and “Development Focus Areas”:
“The Urban Center includes portions of the City of Ithaca, the Towns of Ithaca and Lansing, and the Villages of Cayuga Heights and Lansing and is the largest of the Development Focus Areas.”
“It is envisioned in the future at least two-thirds of all new residential development would occur in the Development Focus Areas.”
The following excerpts from the comprehensive plans of the “Urban Center” municipalities gives a clearer picture of how this residential development will actually be shared:
Village of Lansing Comp Plan: “All HDR [High Density Residential/Multi-Family] parcels in the Village have been developed.”
Village of Cayuga Heights Comp Plan: “For the purpose of land use analysis, the County plan . . . anticipates no major changes for the Village in the coming decades.”
City of Ithaca Comp Plan: “No significant changes to the character of low-density residential areas are proposed.” “No significant changes to the character of medium-density residential areas are proposed”
Town of Ithaca Comp Plan: “The HDR–High Density Residential zone accommodates detached and semi-detached (duplex) residences in a medium density setting. . . Only 136 acres, or 0.7% of the Town, is zoned HDR.”
Town of Lansing Comp Plan:
“From these residential housing maps, we can see that the area of South Lansing, which runs along Triphammer and Warren Roads, is currently unaffordable for the majority of people within the region. However, due to close proximity to jobs, shopping and the university it would make for an ideal location for housing, which would provide the opportunity for people to earn a living and spend less than the 30% threshold for affordability.”
Since the rural Town of Lansing is the farthest municipality in the County’s new “urban center” – 8 miles – from Cornell and Ithaca’s business and shopping: arguing this development on the basis of its “close proximity” and “ideal location” is more than a misrepresentation.
“By creating compact neighborhoods of high population density, TCAT would be more likely to expand into this area and thereby making housing more affordable by eliminating the costs of additional vehicles and associated transportation.”
How can you argue to expand mass transit into a new area; when you already have an existing transit system and great walkability in an urban area with endless housing redevelopment potential? An area that has the jobs and businesses that these relocated workers would need to be bused many extra miles to get to.
“Housing expansion in the form of new developments and PUD’s will result in increased traffic and the need to expand roads and/or mass transit to accommodate the resulting increase in population. As with municipal water and sewer, the logical choice would be to gradually expand out from the village into the area of South Lansing and eventually further north.”
[PUDs are “Planned Unit Developments” - a term used to describe a housing development that is not subject to standard zoning requirements for the area – a further erosion of any community control.]
Since the Town of Lansing will need to “create neighborhoods,” “expand roads,” and add “municipal water and sewer” to their infrastructure, as well as being miles further away from Ithaca’s job and business center than any other municipality in the County’s “Urban Center” plan — how could this ever be considered the best planning solution for Tompkins County?
Town of Lansing 2018 Comprehensive Plan’s “Proposed Future Land Uses”: depicts thousands of acres that will be zoned for apartments and condominiums. Tompkins County and “Lansing’s” government plan to turn a once rural town into the largest and most concentrated collection of housing developments in the region.
“The construction of a new four-lane highway on the outskirts of Ithaca, NY created a rapidly growing commercial center in the previously rural Town of Lansing. The clash between the newcomers and the old-timers over the direction and pace of this change led to the formation of a new local government and the incorporation of the Village of Lansing.” – Lansing at the Crossroads: A Partisan History of the Village of Lansing, New York, Rita Smidt
Incomers from Ithaca and Cornell continued to move into what was left of rural Lansing; creating a large urban sprawl bedroom community and gradually taking over the town’s government and planning. Finding a loophole from an old agreement to share municipal Highway Dept. services: that allowed residents of the Village of Lansing to vote in the Town of Lansing’s elections without any reciprocity – they blanketed the Village’s streets with election signs calling themselves the candidates “For All of Lansing” — there were no ethical qualms about having residents from a different municipality, with a very different viewpoint, voting into office a Town Board that would radically change the community they had historically “clashed” with. The plan worked.
It’s the Fall of 2021; and upcoming elections for Lansing’s Town Board – a sign in the Village of Lansing:
Village of Lansing
Lansing Town Elections
First Tuesday in November
After all; isn’t this in line with the ethics and actions already demonstrated by Tompkins County government itself?
The “Urban Center/Development Focus Area/Rural Sprawl” housing agenda that County Planners concocted for the Town of Lansing is an example of everything that’s wrong with the “City-centric” planning of Tompkins County today:
Academic credentials at the service of vested interests.
Adopting a lesser plan to appease a greater master.
And maybe what’s even worse; in a college “destination” with such smug pretentions of being a seat of learning and illumination — it’s intellectually dishonest.
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