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Committee Reviews Old Library Site Development Issue, Fails to Reach New Recommendation

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Committee Reviews Old Library Site Development Issue, Fails to Reach New Recommendation

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Legislature’s Old Library Committee today reviewed further the matter of designating a preferred developer for the County’s Old Library property, but members deadlocked and failed to forward any recommended action to the full Legislature.

At the Legislature’s June 16 meeting, neither the proposal from the Travis Hyde group nor the proposal from the Franklin Properties group had achieved the eight votes required for passage.  Today, as the five-member committee considered a slightly revised resolution, recommendations to designate Franklin and to designate Travis Hyde both failed to win approval of the committee by 2-2 votes—Legislators Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Dooley Kiefer supporting Franklin, and Legislator Mike Sigler and Chair Mike Lane supporting Travis Hyde.  (Legislator Kathy Luz Herrera was excused.)

Although it had been suggested that Legislators Peter Stein or Luz Herrera, who were not present for the Legislature’s June 16 votes, could bring the matter up for reconsideration by the Legislature, the committee was advised today that, under the rules of the Legislature, that option would have only applied to the Legislature’s July 7 meeting (the next meeting following the action.)  It is now expected that the Legislature at its next meeting July 21 will have before it three member-filed resolutions regarding the Old Library—from Chair Lane recommending Travis Hyde as preferred developer, and from Legislators Kiefer and McBean-Clairborne each recommending the Franklin Properties group.

Committee members expressed general agreement on two modifications to the initial resolution, changing the action’s environmental review (SEQR) classification and indicating that in negotiations the County will attempt to secure a ground lease.

Travis Hyde proposes new construction with 60 market rate senior-focused apartment units, with professional office space and space for the senior services organization Lifelong.  Franklin would build upon the foundation and structure of the existing building to provide 22 condominium units, medical offices, and community space.  Lifelong representatives confirmed today that they are currently also involved in discussions with Franklin, but no agreements with that development group have been reached at this time.

There was some question concerning the status of Lifelong as a factor in the selection process, since provisions for Lifelong were not mentioned in the County’s Request for Proposals. Chair Lane said that, while he agrees that Lifelong should not be the controlling issue, the RFP did not say that that issue shouldn’t be taken into consideration, and he believes it can be considered as a factor.

Legislator McBean-Clairborne remarked that the views of more than 700 residents who have signed a petition supporting Franklin should also be important to consider.

Regarding process, Legislator Carol Chock, who attended the committee meeting, suggested more detail about development proposals be incorporated into any resolution the Legislature considers, regarding the project and expectations for the preferred developer, similar to language the City’s Urban Renewal Agency uses regarding sale of land.  Planning Commissioner Ed Marx said the County’s process has been clear from the beginning and reviewed extensively with all proposers and the City.  He noted the  issue now comes down to two very good proposals and a divided Legislature, and does not reflect any deficiency in the County’s process.

The development proposals, as submitted, are posted on the County web site at http://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/planning/community-planning/oldlibrary

Video files of earlier developer presentations to the Old Library Committee, with  updated proposal information in some cases, may be accessed through the County’s Meeting Portal at http://tompkinscountyny.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx.  (To access the information, select the “Old Library” meeting group, then click on the May 1, 8, or 12 meeting date; for the video files, click on “Media”.)