August 26, 2009


W. Court St. project stirs more opposition

Neighbors worry proposal to add 2 more apartments to building will increase density

W. CourtBob Ellis/staff photographer
Developer John Del Vecchio has proposed adding two apartments to his four-unit student housing project under construction at 19 W. Court St.

Contributing writer

The continuing legal wrangling surrounding landowner John Del Vecchio’s student housing project on West Court Street has raised concerns among residents who live nearby.
Del Vecchio has applied for a change to the proposed project at 19 W. Court St., increasing from four to six the number of apartments in the building being constructed at the rear of the property. The apartments in the latest proposal would be in the basement of the building.
The city Planning Commission discussed his application Monday, and approximately 18 College Hill area residents attended the meeting, which did not include a public hearing. Del Vecchio also attended the meeting with his attorney.
“I cannot think of a reason that the Planning Commission should approve this application,” said Robert Spitzer, a SUNY Cortland political science professor who lives two houses up from Del Vecchio’s property on West Court Street.
Spitzer said he is concerned that adding apartment units to the project will further increase the college student population density in the neighborhood, which he said has seen a noticeable increase over the 10 years he’s lived there.
Spitzer’s home is in an R-1 district, zoned for single-family houses. Del Vecchio’s property sits in an R-4 district, zoned to allow for multifamily housing.
Del Vecchio’s project has been the subject of ongoing controversy for more than two years. He said he has spent more than $25,000 in legal fees and other expenses, altering the plans at least 12 times to conform with Planning Commission requests.
He had initially proposed a building with six apartment units, but scaled it back to four at the commission’s request. Despite this, neighbors are still concerned about the development’s impact on the area.
Del Vecchio has begun work on the project already, and Spitzer said that basement windows that were not in the originally approved plans are visible now. He said Del Vecchio is acting as if he has already gotten approval for the two additional basement apartment units.
City Code Enforcement Director Charles Glover said his office referred Del Vecchio back to the Planning Commission after noting that Del Vecchio had added window openings that were not in the approved plans to the foundation.
“I’m building the building right now as it was planned and approved,” Del Vecchio said. “I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong ... I’m not trying to cram a student housing project into an area that doesn’t have student housing in it.”
The brick home originally was built for industrialist George Brockway.
In July 2007, the city Planning Commission ruled that Del Vecchio’s proposed alterations would adversely affect the neighborhood’s environment. The proposed new building replaces the home’s garage. The house on the property holds three apartment units and an office.
Following a lawsuit filed against the city by Del Vecchio in September 2007, state Supreme Court Justice Phillip R. Rumsey ruled that the commission’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and struck down the commission’s finding that the project would negatively impact the neighborhood environment.


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