Timeline of Hamilton Square activity, March 2016 through May 2017

This is a timeline of Hamilton Square-related activity, as we understand it. Please send any corrections and we’ll update this.

Land purchase – March 2016
Initial impressions of property use – high end, $300K single family houses, apparently mentioned by owner/architect during variance request for new village street clearance.

2017

Late April: Postcard sent from INHS (Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service, develops affordable/subsidized housing in Tompkins and Seneca counties) about open house at firehouse about the project. It went to some houses near the land, we’re not sure who and how many. Some abutters didn’t receive it, nor did some residents a few blocks away. Little or no mention in the Free Press, nor posters throughout village, nor NextDoor social network post, etc.
The postcard had no mention of number of units. It mentioned market-rate for sale, affordable for sale, and rentals.
It invited input on public amenities, architecture, and neighborhood appearance.

Postcard on INHS Facebook page (which residents would have no idea to check):  https://www.facebook.com/IthacaNHS/photos/a.122268658508.103175.122239193508/10154835211278509/?type=3&theater

May 2: Open house to look at sketches, possible designs. First time potential number of units made public (90). Trumansburg has around 700 households.
Since 1940, the decade with highest amount of housing built was 2000-2009, 76 units total over 10 years (census data).  Article in IthacaVoice.com, online only.

May 3 (approximately): Letter from local resident protesting development in mailboxes, first that many people heard about the project.

May 8: Village Trustee board mtg, 10-minute agenda item about the letter and Hamilton Square issues.

May 18: Village Planning mtg – revised sketch shown to board (77 units), public input invited by board, packed room, lots of questions and concerns. Developers expect to submit plan early July. No commitment on number/type of units. Developers except architect/owner present, 30 community members present. First local newspaper article.

A new village street, approx .4 miles, is required based on the housing layout, at a cost of $1 million to $1.5 million (high number may include additional infrastructure).

Informal discussion among community members was that the cost of the new street is a big hurdle, and was a big reason why INHS was brought into the development, as a channel for getting government/grants to fund the street.  Note local zoning requires 20% affordable housing in any new development, but doesn’t require a nonprofit to provide that, and in fact suggests the developer would provide that, as it provides incentives for more than 20%.

May 25: Letter to the editor published in Ithaca Voice and Free Press:  https://ithacavoice.com/2017/05/opinion-22-t-burg-residents-say-yes-in-my-backyard-to-proposed-housing-project/

May 31: Village Trustee special board meeting announced with relatively short notice, agenda of ongoing sidewalk project, with no mention of new housing development.  The meeting was announced with the appropriate timing and methods, and very unfortunate personal circumstances precluded as thorough an agenda as normal. However, the number of community members attending was roughly a third of prior board meetings.

Mayor requested approval to, with INHS, approach Barbara Lifton about possible government funding for new village street. Two of five board members expressed reservations about proceeding, and essentially all 10 attending community members spoke against it (none supporting it). It was thought that this step was putting the cart before the horse, without a proposed plan, without community buy-in.  Trustees finally agreed, if it was made clear to INHS that this was not a commitment to proceed but more of a tentative inquiry. Additionally, the mayor indicated casually he felt it fair to use tax assessments of subsidized pricing, which is, we understand, the only other possibility the village board has to possibly affect the project (ie, approve use of subsidized, rather than market rate, assessments).  The planning board still has its approval process, although the developers expect to submit a plan that requires no variances.

There are at least 3 groups starting to meet and organize communication, education, petition, etc.

There are many issues about the project (lack of senior housing, low number of for-sale units, only one single family home, density, taxes, traffic, environment, etc). A small number of residents, 2-3, have written the board complaining about affordable/low-income housing, and it’s easy to think any dissent is typical NIMBYism, which is incorrect.  The first 11 letters sent largely support some amount of affordable housing but also request more community involvement in the planning and decision process.

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