March 18, 2015

Groton village board reconsiders zoning map




Staff Reporter

GROTON — The Village Board is sending a proposed zoning map back to the village Planning Board for reconsideration of a proposal to rezone certain areas to forbid creation of multifamily homes.
About 10 residents came to a public hearing Monday night in the Village Hall to share concerns over the map that would possibly forbid multi-dwelling development in certain areas of the village.
As it stands now, multifamily dwellings may only be built in high intensity districts. These are districts that have mixed use, commercial, business, etc.
In some cases people have expanded homes into two-family homes in low- and medium-intensity districts. This would be forbidden under the law, which would make medium- and low-intensity districts strictly single-family areas.
Low and medium-intensity zones are currently those that have more single-family homes and some two-family homes and mixed use areas and agricultural lands, Village Administrator Charles Rankin said this morning.
Officials are considering amending the local zoning law to limit where development of multifamily dwellings could occur.
Terry Walpole, who lives at 414 W. Cortland St., said during the hearing Monday night he was concerned that his two-family dwelling would be affected by the proposed zoning changes. Walpole’s home has a first-floor living area and the second floor can be used as a rental. He said he has not rented the second floor in several years but wanted to know the option would still be available if the local law was passed.
Village attorney Peter Grossman told Walpole that his home would be grandfathered in since it was already constructed as a two-family home when he purchased the property.
Walpole said after the hearing he has lived in the house since 2002 and purchased it as a two-family home to sublet it to his children.
He said he would still like to have the option available to rent it out in the future.
The Village Board started the process of updating its zoning laws in 2013.
In April 2014, the Village Board passed a law giving the village the power to shut down for up to a year, properties deemed a nuisance. In August 2014, the Village Board also passed amendments requiring a special permit be obtained to create rooming houses. The amendments also stipulated that to get a special permit, properties must be maintained to a certain standard.
Attorney Grossman said after Monday’s meeting the local law being reconsidered is just another phase in the process of fixing the village’s zoning.
“Piece by piece the village has looked at components of the law ... and they tried without starting from scratch to ... update the law to match what is viewed as the plan for the village in the future,” Grossman said.
Mayor Jeffrey Evener said the board tabled the amendment so the village planning board could look at recommendations made by the Tompkins County Planning Board.
Among them, the planning board suggested the village board consider creating sub-zones so older village homes on smaller lots could be in separate zones for example, said Rankin.
In support of their recommendation, county Planning Board officials pointed out that the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan of 2015 calls for the county to “promote more housing and mixed use development” in the village.
One developer who came to Monday’s meeting, pointed out that his plans may be at risk as a result of the proposed amendment.
Developer Rick Uhl of Lansing-based Uhl Developments purchased a vacant lot at Elm Street Extension and Beechwood Drive last year, planning to build multifamily dwellings. The proposed zoning map puts that property into the zoning area that would only allow single-family dwellings.
Uhl, who owns other multiunit dwellings in Trumansburg and Groton, said after the pubic hearing he would have started construction but is waiting on the village board to make its decision
“That’s why I purchased the land,” Uhl said after the meeting, noting he bought it specifically to build multifamily dwellings. Uhl added he has already invested about $500,000 into the project.
Another resident, who attended but did not speak during the meeting, was also concerned about his investment in a duplex he purchased about eight years ago.
Rick Cicciarelli, owns a duplex on Spring Street. He said after the meeting he purchased the duplex hoping to eventually buy a single-family home but rent out the duplex as another source of income.
Right now, he lives in one half of the building and rents out the other.
“We’ve done an awful lot of improvements,” Cicciarelli said after the meeting. “We put ... money back from the rent into the house to make it a much nicer looking property inside and out.”
But with his future plans, Cicciarelli wanted to also learn about the zoning laws to see what he might have to do if the law was passed.
“Do I have to bust out walls and turn it into a one-family home?” Cicciarelli asked. “That doesn’t seem fair either.”
After Grossman told Walpole his house would be grandfathered in, Cicciarelli said he felt better to know his property would not be affected because the duplex was already established when he bought it.

To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe