By Edward Errigo
This is an opinion/letter. If you’re interested in posting one, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
As you may be aware, I am the power of attorney for the 209 Pennsylvania Avenue residence (owned by my almost 99 year old aunt) and an opponent of the original Hamilton Square housing project plan.
I attended the Thursday meeting at The Conservatory regarding the proposed Hamilton Square housing project. While, I see some positive revisions since the original proposals, I remain opposed to the overall size and design of the project. In talking with approximately 100 of my Pennsylvania Avenue, Larchmont Drive, Tamarack Lane, South Street, and Whig Street neighbors the following concerns have been raised:
- 47 rental units is too large of a public housing footprint for Trumansburg, especially in a high value neighborhood. Residents are concerned about public safety, especially with the documented drug addict problems, resident-to-resident confrontations, and auto break-ins at The Overlook (across from the hospital). Many residents believe that INHS will “import” residents from far beyond Tompkins County, a concern that INHS did not help allay by boasting in a recent fundraising letter of expanding services to applicants outside the county boundary. Residents believe “outsiders” may not accept Trumansburg community values or abide by village laws. Residents are also concerned that a large public housing footprint will diminish the property value of their established homes. Our current village police (no overnight patrol) and EMS services are not adequate to handle such an influx, and INHS officials did not answer the question raised at the meeting of whether they are prepared to fund additional village service needs. Clearly, 70% tax abated rental units will not meet the service needs of the proposed development. Trumansburg village and school taxes are already high; taxpayers don’t support adding to the current burden.
- Residents believe that 47 rentals, the proposed starter homes, and the proposed relocation of the nursery school to Hamilton Square will inundate South Street with constant traffic. With many homes close to the current pavement, widening South Street or adding a large sidewalk is not a desirable option to many affected residents. Adding a sidewalk to Pennsylvania Avenue, as was mentioned at the meeting, seems out of the question given the current drainage problems. It would require extreme expense since the first 150 feet connecting into Elm Street has the only available drainage ditches (completely full during heavy rain) on both sides of the current pavement.
- Residents believe that for the new development to blend with the current single family home environment surrounding the proposed development, that you should consider offering more lots (in addition to your current market sale lots) for contractor development in a style similar to Tamarack or Larchmont. One resident with some building knowledge suggested working these additional lots around the periphery of your land track, especially on the high ground facing town, and the dry areas facing Pennsylvania and bordering existing Tamarack homes. These full tax properties would contribute to the Trumansburg tax base and help pay for the additional village services that the rest of the development may require.
Not all existing resident comment is negative. Trumansburg residents are in favor of:
- Providing affordable housing for elderly residents, 62 and older.
- Providing young families with an opportunity to invest in our community through the purchase of a “starter home” or townhouse.
Here is my suggested plan to alleviate the negative concerns and incorporate the aspects that residents regard as favorable:
- Build and allocate 14-16 of the rental units to permanent 62+ elderly housing, similar to Juniper Manor II apartments.
- Reduce the unrestricted rental units to 18-20 units.
- Build 12 units of affordable for sale townhouses or small single homes. Blend some of the for sale townhouses into the central core of rentals. (Filling lot space around the green space that would have been occupied by the original 47 rentals)
- Offer at least 12 single family home lots on the site periphery to private contractors, or individuals seeking to build a custom single family residence.
- Rescind the offer to house the nursery school onsite; construct a smaller community center building.
- Building 14-16 permanently designated 62+ elderly housing units onsite would help to alleviate Trumansburg’s acute need for elderly housing and help meet INHS’s minimum 40 unit requirement. With aging baby boomers seeking smaller dwellings, the need for Trumansburg elderly housing will likely continue for the next twenty years.
- A smaller footprint of 18-20 unrestricted rental units will reduce public safety concerns and reduce the potential need for additional village police, EMS, snow removal personnel and vehicles. Why 18-20? When I asked surrounding residents what is the largest number of public housing rental units they would feel safe living next to, the highest number suggested was 20. (response ranged from 8-20, with most residents in the 10-16 range) Additionally, the smaller footprint would reduce traffic concerns on South Street and reduce site drainage concerns (smaller parking lot, less runoff).
- Building 12 units of subsidized for sale townhomes or small single family homes meets the need to provide affordable housing to young families seeking to live in Trumansburg. The 12 units would also help meet the 40 units of subsidized housing required by INHS (when combined with rentals 1&2).
- Offering at least 12 single family home lots for Tamarack style development would potentially add an estimated $4-4.5 million in unabated Trumansburg village tax assessment. The additional revenues could be used to fund the above mentioned services required by the Hamilton Square housing site. Occupying the periphery of your tract would create a buffer between existing homes and the proposed rental units.
- Rescinding the offer to house the nursery school on-site would have three benefits:
- Eliminate South Street traffic flow to Hamilton Square, especially during the busy morning school bus traffic time.
- Keep a funding source for the Presbyterian Church in these difficult times of declining members.
- Construct a smaller community center, saving INHS project costs.
I understand INHS will not favor the reduction in rental units; for them additional housing units equal dollars. Perhaps, the current plan can be jammed through a divided Planning Board and 75/25 village resident opposition (80/20 opposition on the affected West side of the village), but it would seem a smarter course of action is to develop a plan that has the backing of the majority of village residents and provides Trumansburg with a self-sustaining tax revenue stream for delivery of Hamilton Square services. I am certain that you would get assistance from Trumansburg community members connected to Cornell, Ithaca College, Cayuga Medical, or Ithaca law offices in marketing for sale lots to families locating to our area, if there was positive sentiment regarding the Hamilton Square project. It all depends on the legacy that you wish to leave: as the developer that worked with existing homeowners to better the future of our community or the developer who ruined the Trumansburg way of life. As a fellow Virginia Tech alumnus, I urge you to consider the former.
Edward A. Errigo