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Committee Takes Preliminary Action on Biggs Parcel, But Not on Drone Law

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Committee Takes Preliminary Action on Biggs Parcel, But Not on Drone Law

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Government Operations Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature today took a procedural step toward potential disposition of the remaining 26 acres of the former Health Department (Biggs) property on Harris B. Dates Drive. Planning Commissioner Ed Marx has requested authorization to list the property for sale, following withdrawal last year of a proposal from NRP Properties and Better Housing for Tompkins County for an affordable housing development on the site.

Following up ongoing concerns expressed by Indian Creek neighbors about sale of the property, the committee today heard from Indian Creek Neighborhood Association member Roy Luft, who offered two suggestions that would result in the Biggs parcel remaining undeveloped, including one that would produce clustered senior housing on an adjacent property.

While taking no action at this time on those ideas, the Committee voted in support of providing the Association time to come forth with a purchase proposal, before any recommendation is made to put the parcel on the market. By a 4-1 vote, with Legislator Dooley Kiefer dissenting, the committee moved to accept offers through January 15, then will evaluate the results and make a decision at that time of whether to list the property with a realtor. The Committee indicated that, due to the presence of wetlands on the site, the County would entertain an offer below the 2009 assessment of $340,000, but cannot release at this time a revised valuation figure.

The committee discussed, but ultimately took no action on a draft local law regarding regulation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as “drones”. County Attorney Jonathan Wood noted a couple of recent changes concerning the issue, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) invoking the regulation as of yesterday for all drones, of between half-a-pound and 55 pounds, to be registered. He said the General Counsel of the FAA also issued an opinion that takes a “fairly expansive’ view of FAA jurisdiction and suggests limits on state and local regulation of drones to considerations such as photography, but not where drones could fly. Legislator Rich John was one who questioned whether this was the appropriate time to move forward with a local law.

There was committee support for an amendment to the draft law that would exempt members of community-based hobbyists safely operating under policies of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, supported 4-1, with Legislator Kiefer dissenting. Ultimately, though, Ms. Kiefer withdrew her motion to recommend the law, and no other member chose to introduce it.