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Committee Hears From Indian Creek Neighbors Regarding Biggs Parcel

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Committee Hears From Indian Creek Neighbors Regarding Biggs Parcel

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Government Operations Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature heard a presentation from members of the Indian Creek Neighborhood Association, regarding their concerns about the County’s 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.

In the presentation, delivered by spokesperson Linda Grace-Kobas, the association asked, in part, for an inclusive process for determining the use of public lands, and said the parcel, described as the Indian Creek Woods, as land of environmental significance, with its wetlands and proximity to the Indian Creek Unique Natural Area, and its role in local Native American history. The association asked for no decision to dispose of the property without a complete environmental review by the County and the Town of Ithaca, and an open, transparent public process. It asked the County to issue a new Request for Proposals for uses that would preserve and manage the property.

Commissioner Marx noted that the Planning Advisory Board had earlier looked at the parcel’s environmental value, and concluded that its environmental benefits would be outweighed by the value of an alternate use, and said the County would not be in the position to serve as continued owner or steward of the property.

Committee Chair Dan Klein asked for specifics regarding who would own the land and manage it, under such an arrangement. Grace-Kobas countered that the association could not come forth with any proposal without a current price sought by the County, suggesting the property’s 2009 valuation at $340,000 was no longer current following the finding of wetlands on the site. Mr. Klein said the County has set no specific asking price, but needs specifics for any offer. “We will consider any proposal,” he said. Director of Assessment Jay Franklin said he would be happy to provide an updated valuation of the land.

The Committee also heard a presentation from Ithaca Radio Control Society president Frank Granelli, who maintained the County’s draft local law regarding Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as “drones”, would have “unfair impact” on hobbyists, including youth, who are flying radio-controlled vehicles responsibly. He said the draft law is so general that it would “cover every facet of model aviation.” He asked that the Academy of Model Aeronautics privacy policy be included in any law, or that it contain an exclusion clause that would exempt members of community-based groups safely operating under that AMA privacy policy.

Among other business, the Committee also sent on to the full Legislature a recommended resolution that would call upon Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, to be phased in by 2021. The recommendation came by a 4-1 vote, Legislators Glenn Morey, Dave McKenna, Rich John, and Chair Klein voting in favor, Legislator Dooley Kiefer opposed. Saying she was not comfortable with this approach, Ms. Kiefer had initially proposed a wording change that would have supported phase-in “no later than 2015 and earlier, if possible, since today’s $15 is expected to have less purchasing power in 2021.”