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Legislature Casts Key Vote on Conference Center Project

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Legislature Casts Key Vote on Conference Center Project

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Tompkins County Legislature voted 9-4 (with Legislators Glenn Morey, Amanda Champion, Henry Granison and Dan Klein voting no; Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne was excused) to establish a conceptual fiscal commitment for the Proposed Downtown Ithaca Conference Center Project.

Prior to the vote,more than a dozen community members addressed the Legislature, many of them voicing support of the project and the boost it would give to the local tourism and hospitality industries. They touted the increased foot traffic a conference center would produce, and how it would promote revenue across all sectors of the downtown economy, and generate more tax money.

Legislator Anna Kelles (D), who sponsored the resolution, reminded her colleagues that approving the measure does not bind the County to anything at this time, and that any financing commitments would need to approved later as part of a yet-to-be-agreed upon Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Some legislators remained skeptical. Amanda Champion (D) said she isn’t against the conference center, but doesn’t feel the county should be involved as it won’t benefit everyone, adding the process “feels rushed.” Henry Granison (D) expressed concern that many conference centers run a deficit, but Martha Robertson (D) urged lawmakers not to lose sight of the “bigger picture,” adding the city is part of the county and “we are one community.”

Tuesday night’s vote comes ahead of an Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) decision on February 6th to determine whether the conference center project is financially viable.