December 06, 2007


Clock tower project scaled back

Empty Lot

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Site of the former clock tower building at the corner of Main and Tompkins streets. The new plan for the site eliminates a previously proposed bank drive-thru and fourth floor.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A bank branch will no longer dominate the first floor of the proposed clock tower building on the corner of Main and Tompkins streets.
The drive-thru at the rear of the building that would have serviced the bank has also been eliminated, and the building has been cut from four stories to three.
The city Historic District Commission is scheduled to review the project Monday and the Planning Commission will conduct a site plan review on Dec. 17.
The building would replace the iconic three-story Squires Building that was destroyed by fire in April 2006. A clock tower on the corner was a key local landmark and a similar clock is included in the design for a new building.
Construction wouldn’t begin until next spring.
Having received tacit approvals from the city Planning and Historic District commissions in the spring, the project had been on hold since May while owner John Scanlon negotiated between the state Department of Transportation and the potential bank tenant.
The DOT had to approve the proposed drive-thru that would have entered the property from Tompkins Street.
“We weren’t able to satisfy both the DOT safety concerns with the drive-thru as well as the tenant’s needs,” Scanlon said Wednesday afternoon.
“Right now, we are looking for prospective tenants and we have designed it with three different storefronts. We are basically looking for an anchor tenant; preferably in the larger of the three spaces.”
The three separate business spaces on the ground floor — measuring 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 square feet — could be used in any combination, Scanlon said.
Scanlon said he would be contacting both local and out-of-town businesses, including franchises. He hopes to provide a space for a new business, rather than a relocated, established organization.
The second and third stories in the planned building would be devoted to apartment space.
Scanlon estimated the total project cost would be between $3 million and $3.5 million.
The four-story clock tower proposal had been estimated at about $4.5 million.
The city was awarded a $2 million state Restore-NY Communities Initiative grant for the project in April, requiring a matching contribution from the property owner.
While Scanlon acknowledged the “possibility” of some snags in the financing, he said “we’re well within the guidelines of the original grant,” and that he’s exchanged correspondence with state officials to that effect.
Each floor of the redesigned clock tower building would be about 7,000 square feet, for a total of 21,000 square feet; the original designs for the four-story proposal would have been a total of 24,000 square feet.
The elimination of the four drive-thru lanes at the southwestern corner of the property allowed Scanlon’s architect, Jeff Taw of Syracuse-based Holmes, King, Kallquist & Associates, to expand the structure in that direction. That added between 500 and 1,000 square feet to each floor, Scanlon said.
There would be a driveway along that portion of the building, but Scanlon said it would not be used as primary access to the parking lot on the southern side of the building, off south Main Street.
“It would not be intended as a main entrance — it would be more of an access road for delivery,” Scanlon said.
An adjacent building also owned by Scanlon on south Main Street — the boyhood home of famous early 20th century inventor Elmer Sperry — would be demolished to provide parking spaces for about 15 cars.
The revised plans actually resemble the three-story Squires Building more closely, Scanlon said. The masonry between the floors and forming the parapet around the roof is taller and more reminiscent of the 19th century structure.
“It did make it look more similar to the original,” Scanlon said.




Homer zoning changes topic of hearing

Residents have few concerns with proposal that would change about half of town zoning

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Few opposed a proposed new town zoning law at a public hearing Wednesday, though one woman spoke on behalf of numerous neighbors against zoning allowing adult entertainment venues near her home.
Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said the Town Board would consider making changes to the document based on concerns from the public. It expects to vote on the document at its Jan. 2 board meeting.
The public hearing, which followed a first public hearing in October, drew about 20 town residents. The hearings came after three years of work on the proposed law by a committee of 10.
The zoning law, which has not been updated in more than 30 years, proposes changing about 50 percent of the town’s zoning. At the beginning of Wednesday’s public hearing, zoning committee Chairman Dan Gustafson spent several minutes describing the main changes.
One of the biggest changes is the removal of strips of residential zoning along the town’s main routes. Most of those strips would be made agricultural to match up with the land behind them.
Other changes include cluster residential zoning in various parts of the town currently zoned agricultural, including Limerick Lane and Spencer Road, and a lakeside district around Little York Lake that allows houses and low-impact businesses to coexist.
The new zoning would also require site plan review of any proposed business development, even if it is proposed for a business zone area.
It also restricts adult entertainment venues to the south side of Route 13 on both sides of East River Crossing Road and the southeast corner of the town, just east of the county landfill.
Currently adult entertainment establishments are allowed anywhere in the town because the town’s zoning does not address them.
The town has no adult entertainment businesses at this point.
Dawn Bell, who lives near East River Crossing Road, said she and numerous neighbors are opposed to the possibility of having an adult entertainment venue move into the neighborhood, mostly due to traffic concerns.
She asked if the town might consider designating just one part of the town that is east of the county landfill for that type of business.
Gustafson and town attorney Pat Snyder said allowing adult entertainment in two parts of town, as opposed to one, would likely hold up better in a potential court case.
Nonetheless, the Town Board is free to make a change, Gustafson said.



BDC to vote on Hartsock successor

Search committee will present board with candidate at a meeting Monday.

Staff Reporter

Cortland County could have a new director of economic development within the next two weeks, a member of the search committee working to fill the job said Tuesday.
The search committee has chosen a candidate from approximately 60 applicants, said Paul Slowey, chairman of the county Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency.
He declined to provide any information about the candidate, who would serve as the executive director of the two groups.
Slowey said members of the search committee will present information about the candidate to the BDC during an executive session meeting of the group’s board on Monday.
The BDC is responsible for the issue because the new hire would technically be employed by the BDC. The person would be contracted to work for the IDA.
A consensus will be sought during executive session, and after the meeting the group will vote on whether to offer the job to the candidate, Slowey said.
Should the board approve making the offer, the applicant will be offered a contract.
If all goes as planned, an announcement about a new economic development director should be made within the next two weeks.
The search committee consists of 11 people. It is made up of members of the BDC and IDA and local political and business leaders.
The county has sought a replacement for Linda Hartsock since she left the position Sept. 24.
Hartsock, who took a job as regional director of Empire State Development’s Central New York office, had served as Cortland County’s economic development director for eight years.
About 10 people have been interviewed for her position, Slowey said, and most of the candidates live within a few hours of Cortland.
Another candidate was initially offered the job, but that person did not accept it, Slowey said, declining to provide additional information about the candidate.




Seward touts school tax relief bill at Rotary meeting

Staff Reporter

State Sen. Jim Seward advocated the state spend almost $10 billion a year on property tax relief, college affordability and job creation during a visit Tuesday to Cortland.
Seward (R-Milford) spoke at the end of the Elk’s Club on Groton Avenue in Cortland at a Rotary Club weekly lunch meeting, which about 50 people attended.
Two of the initiatives have associated bills that have passed in the state Senate, and could go before the full state Assembly.
The college affordability initiative was passed in the Senate but quashed in an Assembly committee. A new bill would need to be drawn up for the measure to have a chance.
Seward and his press secretary Duncan Davie said after the talk some money for the three initiatives, which would represent about one-twelfth of the state’s total budget, would come from a combination of about $3 billion in extra revenue the state gets each year and a potential $3 billion in yearly savings from Medicaid reform.
But those revenue sources are not guaranteed. According to a press released issued Oct. 30 by the state Division of the Budget, New York faces a budget gap of $4.3 billion for next year.
In regards to the Medicaid reform bill Davie referred to, Senate Bill 6872, it was quashed in the Assembly’s health committee, according to the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission’s hotline.
A new bill would need to be drawn up for the measure to have a chance.
The largest chunk of money Seward advocated the state spend would be on school district funding — up to $9 billion a year over the next five years.
Under Senate Bill 6119, which passed in the Senate in June and is before the Assembly’s Real Property Taxation Committee, that funding would replace local school property taxes.
School districts would have the authority to eliminate local property taxes through public votes. The state would then provide them with funding.
Seward said after his talk Tuesday that the program would be fairer for poorer school districts such as ones in Cortland County. Davie elaborated that the program could ensure school funding is based more on school district property owners’ ability to pay than the wealth of a district.




County spending $30,000 on stronger fix for Daisy Hollow Road

Highway department will grind strip of road, then apply hot asphalt patch to stabilize it.

Staff Reporter

The county will try a $30,000 semi-permanent fix on Daisy Hollow Road in Harford to alleviate some of the concerns over the deteriorating road surface.
The road is in a near constant state of disrepair because of poor underlying soil.
County Highway Committee Chair Dan Tagliente (D-7th Ward) inspected the failing section of road with Highway Superintendent Don Chambers and the two decided to pursue more significant repairs to the road than those included in the annual maintenance of the road, estimated at about $4,000.
“As you come up the hill there, if you’re going a pretty good speed, it looks like it could cause some problems,” Tagliente said during a Highway Committee meeting Tuesday morning.
Chambers said his department would grind down some of the roadway and would then apply a hot asphalt patch to stabilize the road. The drainage along the road would also be cleaned out, Tagliente said.
“It’s not permanent by any means, but it will be a more effective patch,” Chambers said.
The $30,000 funding for the work would be diverted from funds budgeted for 2008 to repair McGraw-Marathon Road. Chambers said it would be a matter of “trimming something back,” and wouldn’t have a disproportionate impact on that project.
Residents near and along Daisy Hollow Road had petitioned the county in March, seeking to get the road fixed.
A $32,200 study by the engineering firm Barton & Loguidice estimated the cost of repairing an approximately 300-foot section of the road to be between $500,000 and $600,000, not including engineering and the acquisitions of rights of way. Chambers has estimated the total cost of a permanent repair at about $800,000.
About 285 cars travel the road daily.