April 15, 2010


Proposal would convert city house for sorority

ProposalBob Ellis/staff photographer
Developer Joe Armideo is proposing to turn a house at 45 Tompkins St. into a sorority house or apartment house. It is now used by Cortland Community Re-Entry Program as appartments for people with brain injuries who are learning to live independently.

Staff Reporter

The Cortland County Planning Board recommended Wednesday that the city Planning Commission approve a plan by landlord Joe Armideo to convert an apartment house at 45 Tompkins St. into off-campus student housing, possibly a sorority house.
Armideo is seeking a special use permit from the city to use the property either as a sorority house or commercial indoor lodging.
The county Planning Board recommended approval of the project with several conditions laid out by staff from the county Planning Department. The city Planning Commission should determine the project meets the definition of commercial indoor lodging and weigh the narrow lot width — 70.5 feet as opposed to the minimum 105 feet in the R-4 zoning district — against the interests of the community.
The county Planning Department has also asked that Armideo document that he has a sorority ready to live in the house.
An attorney for Armideo said earlier this week that Armideo is applying for a special use permit for either a sorority or commercial indoor lodging because he does not have an agreement with any sorority yet.
The building is owned by the Cortland Community Re-entry Program, which rents the units to clients who have suffered brain injuries and participate in the company’s program to help them gain the skills needed to become independent.
Armideo said he has a purchase agreement on the building. He said he needs to search for a sorority that would be interested in renting the house.
His plan calls for remodeling the house to accommodate 10 bedrooms. The building was a single- and two-family residence before Cortland Community Re-entry Program began housing its clients there.
A special use permit would give Armideo an exception to a city code that does not allow more than three unrelated people to live in a rental unit.
Commercial indoor lodging is defined as providing overnight housing, whether on a residential or temporary basis, in individual rooms or suites of rooms.
Those uses include hotels, motels, boarding houses and rooming houses. A sorority house is defined as a residential dwelling occupied by members of a sorority who are enrolled in SUNY Cortland.
If the city Planning Commission does not approve the building’s use as a sorority house, Armideo said he could make it into four apartments with only three students in each apartment.
The project will now go to the city Planning Commission. The city’s Historic Review Board also must approve it.
Joseph Abdulla, executive director for the Cortland Community Re-entry Program, said the company plans to sell 45 Tompkins St. and 41 Tompkins St. and move its clients from those properties to apartments with smaller units.
The 4,529-square-foot house at 45 Tompkins St. was built in 1876 and is assessed at $207,000.
The 4,228-square-foot house at 41 Tompkins St. was built in 1976 and is assessed at $233,200.
The program used to house two or three clients per unit in these houses, Abdulla said. The agency is now looking to move the clients who still live in these houses into new apartments with only one or two people in each unit, he said.
Abdulla said the push to put clients into apartments with fewer tenants is a result of the state Department of Health’s philosophy and the company’s.
“We want to make sure they (clients) are in situations where it’s going to mirror what they’re going to go home to,” Abdulla said.


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