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Committees Recommend County Purchase of N. Tioga Property

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Committees Recommend County Purchase of N. Tioga Property

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

After reviewing the matter in special joint session, two Tompkins County committees today recommended that the County exercise its purchase option and acquire properties located in the 400 Block of North Tioga Street, for a purchase price of $1.8 million. 

For the past few months, the adjoining parcels, located at 408 and 412-414 N. Tioga, 111, 113, 117 and 119 Sears Street, a block away from the County’s Courthouse Complex, have been examined through a feasibility study analysis, assisted by HOLT Architects, as a potential site for a new County office building and associated parking.  There is also the potential to subdivide to return residential development to the Sears Street side of the property. 

The issue currently before the Legislature is whether to acquire the property, currently owned by Dental Properties Company, LLC, not how to proceed with design and implementation of a building project.

The Legislature’s Facilities and Infrastructure, and Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committees approved three related resolutions, recommending their approval by the full Legislature.  The recommended resolutions

  • Declare  a negative determination of environmental significance based on findings in the project’s full Environmental Assessment;
  • Indicate that the action meets “public interest test” criteria specified by the New York State Court of Appeals, exempting it from local zoning; and
  • Authorize acquisition of the property and amend the 2019-2023 Capital Plan and budget to incorporate the acquisition.  That resolution states that the Legislature has determined that the N. Tioga property “is the best option for a new office building site where multiple offices could be consolidated at a single location.” 

Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne cast the only negative votes, voting no on the environmental impact and acquisition resolutions. 

In discussion of environmental impact, Legislators made several minor wording changes throughout the environmental assessment form—for example, to indicate that the project “may” construct residential units, not that such units “will” be constructed, since any decision on design alternatives has not yet been made at this early stage. 

Before the votes, the committees heard from two members of the public.  Robert Lynch, of Enfield, said he has serious concerns and reservations about the proposed purchase and requested that the Legislature schedule a public hearing on the land purchase before taking action.  Sears Street resident Ashley Miller raised concern about one section of the Environmental Assessment regarding facilities serving children, suggesting that reference to pre-schools at nearby houses of worship had been omitted.

Last week, County Administrator Molino told the Legislature that the N. Tioga property can easily support a new building of sufficient size to meet the County’s present and future needs, and that the County can financially support the project as part of its capital plan. 

The feasibility study sets out ten alternate scenarios, which include either a three- or four-story office building (32,000-46,000 s.f.); 25-42 associated parking spaces; and possibly as many as five units of affordable housing along Sears Street.  All scenarios would serve to consolidate a number of scattered downtown County offices into a single location to maximize efficiencies and remove or reduce lease payments. The two four-story options would relocate all downtown offices (with the exception of the Tompkins Workforce Career Center) to the new building, returning to the Center of Government concept evaluated seven years ago.  Total cost of a possible eventual project (with design to LEED Silver standards) is projected at $18.55 million to $19.55 million.  Project cost would include new building development ($12.8 to 14.5 million), land acquisition, and related renovation to other buildings,

Budget chair Michael Lane thanked County Administrator Jason Molino and the entire review team for its work.  “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the County to acquire a piece of property already adjacent to its existing downtown campus, something that has been talked about for many years,” he said.  “I strongly support this.  We will have some time after this to decide the proper way to use it.”

The Legislature will consider the issue April 16th.