Oct 30, 2014 Kick-Off Meeting
On Oct 30th 2014 the consultant team officially launched the Form Ithaca project with a public kick-off meeting held at the Tompkins County Library. The meeting included presentations from the team as well as invited speakers; Jessica Millman, Chuck Banas and Chris Hawley. The meeting was very well attended by public officials, planning staff and key community leaders across the county, town and city of Ithaca. Below you will find the agenda with downloads of the full presentations, list of attendees, record of questions and answers during the event and feedback from participants.
- Form Ithaca Presentation – Consultant Team (8MB filesize)
- Buffalo Code – Chuck Banas and Chris Hawley (12MB filesize)
- Sustainable Ithaca – Jessica Millman (12MB filesize)
|Andy Zepp||Finger Lakes Land Trust|
|Bob Rossi||Green Resource Hub|
|Chris Hawley||Buffalo Planner|
|Cynthia Brock||Common Council Alderperson|
|Dan Tasman||Senior Town Planner|
|Daniel Keough||BPA and Cornell Planning student|
|David Kay||Cornell professor active in city planning|
|Diane Cohen||Fingerlakes ReUse|
|Ed Marx||County Planning Commissioner|
|Fernando de Aragon||County Transportation Planner|
|Gay Nicholson||Sustainable Tompkins|
|Jan Norman||Business Owner|
|Jason Henderson||Ithaca Builds|
|JoAnn Cornish||City Planning Director|
|Joe Bowes||INHS Developer|
|John Guttridge||Property Owner|
|Katie Borgella||County Planner|
|Katie Stoner||Better! Cities & Towns Consultant|
|Leslie Schill||Cornell University Campus Planner|
|Lisa Nicholas||City Planner|
|Mike Cannon||Tompkins Trust, Downtown Alliance, INHS|
|Mike Nocella||Ithaca Times Reporter|
|Mike Smith||Town Planner|
|Nels Bohn||Director of IURA|
|Nick Goldsmith||Sustainability Planner – Town and City|
|Noah Demarest||STREAM Principal|
|Peter Bardaglio||Coordinator, TCCPI|
|Rick Manning||Landscape Architect|
|Rob Steuteville||Better! Cities & Towns|
|Scott Doyle||County Planner|
|Scott Reynolds||INHS Developer|
|Susan Ritter||Town Planning Director|
|Tim Logue||Traffic Engineer|
|Tom Hanna||Former Common Council|
|Chris Balestra||Town planner|
|Jennifer Kusznir||City planner|
|Megan Wilson||City planner|
|Darby Kiley||Planner, Town of Ulysses|
|Karim Beers||Planner, Cornell Cooperative Extension|
|Esther Greenhouse||Environmental Gerontologist|
|Jack Elliott||Planning Board|
|Tillie Baker||HUNT Planner|
|Sarah Liberatore||Sustainable Transportation Educator, CCE|
|Thaddeus Bell||Cornell Student, Urban Planner and Real Estate Dev|
|Ellen McCollister||Common Council|
|Jasmine Williams||TCCPI Intern|
|Hollis Erb||Town of Ithaca Board Member|
|Jon Bosak||Town Planning Board|
|Yvonne Fogarty||Planning Board Member|
|David Cutter||Cornell University Landscape Architect|
|Seph Murtagh||City Common Council|
|Kate Supron||Mayor Cayuga Heights|
|Phyllis DeSarno||City Director of Economic Development|
What are the most positive and exciting opportunities you saw during today’s Form Ithaca: Zoning Reform presentation?
- Positive momentum
- Public accessibility to the conversation
- Public outreach, building consensus on the places we want
- Street design standards
- Just the affirmation of concepts I had already heard, with some nice short (alliterative or other) lists
- Focus zoning on what you do and don’t want to see
- Importance of easy to use single document zoning code
- Getting rid of minimum parking!
- Revising code and increasing support for greater urban density!
- All terrific, great continuum of speakers
- Great to see so much interest!
- Emphasis on what works in context, great slides, excellent case studies – the presenters did a great job with clear communication
- Getting inspired to make progress on implementing Comp Plan
- Exciting to see City and Town work together
- The sheer number of support and people who came to the workshop
What questions, comments or concerns do you have that were not addressed in today’s meeting?
Clarifying some language including what “form-based” means
Answer: A form-based code is an alternative to conventional zoning codes developed during the 20th century. Conventional zoning separates uses, creating disconnected single use pods, and has a focus on preventing density. While both conventional and form-based codes regulate what uses are allowed in which areas and how buildings can be arranged on a site, form-based codes have stronger and more specific regulations about building shape and location, block parameters, and street design while conventional codes are more restrictive in what uses are allowed. Form-based codes create more predictability on adjacent and nearby parcels in order to enhance the sense of place–be it a downtown, village center, neighborhood, or rural area.
How do we foresee the 20-year consequences of drafted code once developers that do not share our vision seek out lucrative opportunities within our well-meaning code?
Answer: Developers will seek opportunities to make money in the next two decades, as they do now, but the draft code will be more closely tied to a community vision. Stronger incentives will be put in place to focus development where it is desired while keeping agricultural and natural areas open. Investment is good, but conventional zoning often results in a hodge-podge of buildings. The form-based code is the key tool available to communities to channel that investment to support the vision. That will ultimately benefit the public and developers.
Street design – I didn’t hear much about walkability besides a mention of WalkScore. What about setting a max lane width 10’ for cyclist (and driver) safety?
Answer: Form-based codes include street design standards geared toward creating thoroughfares that enable pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and bus riders to comfortably and safely share the right-of-way. Lane widths are an important part of such standards. This is an issue that our project team will address with citizens, elected officials, and municipal staff.
Please include designs for street rows that fit Ithaca
CB was the least useful speaker (bless him) despite his enthusiasm; he gave me nothing new
Please provide hand sanitizer when providing food
Village of Cayuga Heights adopted its Comp Plan in Jan 2014. We are currently rewriting our zoning code. Dialogue between the City-Town form-based effort and Village would be appropriate and welcome on our end (Kate Supron)
Answer: Thank you for reaching out. Our team is happy to work closely with the Village and help coordinate with the City and Town.
More details on where we are now with everything and how far we need to go. What is the road ahead from where we are? Especially provide more details on our current zones and whether there are key zoning areas and zoning codes that are particularly problematic.
Answer: The Ithaca area is currently experiencing a building boom which gives particular urgency to fixing the many problems in both of the existing codes. Both city and town zoning allows out-of-scale buildings to be built in residential areas through parcel consolidation (a process that does not require community review) and buildings that are out of character with their neighbors and/or the community vision. Most of the buildings in the city are noncomforming, which means that the zoning is trying to create something different than the city’s existing walkable, diverse neighborhoods. The draft code will address greenhouse gas emissions, health issues, and automobile dependency in ways that are not fully considered in the current zoning.
The Town of Ithaca recently completed and adopted a comprehensive plan that calls for zoning reform to curb uncoordinated sprawl development and to designate specific areas where new walkable community centers and neighborhoods should form. This zoning reform project will help to implement that plan.
The City’s current comprehensive plan is from the early 1970s and does not address the problems Ithaca faces today. A comprehensive plan sets the goals and vision that any zoning change is legally required to support. A rewrite of that plan has been underway for more than half a decade involving hundreds of Ithacans and is well on it’s way to completion. The City’s draft land use chapter, the main vision that future zoning will support, was circulated for public comment earlier this year. The city’s next step is to finalize and legally adopt their plan. In the meantime, our team will be working with the community on a zoning reform package that fits with the new comprehensive plan.
How does the Ithaca project intend to address needs across the lifespan–particularly older adults? Also, do you need translators for the charrette?
Answer: One of the major casualties of the kind of zoning that exists in both the City and Town is that people can no longer “age in place” because new development is segregated into dispersed subdivisions of only one kind of housing, reducing opportunities to stay in a neighborhood as needs change with age, increase or decrease in family size, disability, etc. The City is blessed with a historic fabric including a mix of unit types in many neighborhoods—unfortunately in many areas this historic mix does not conform to code. Zoning reform will encourage new development to take the historic compact, connected and complete neighborhood form rather than isolated subdivisions. Better zoning will be more inclusive of people who are too young, too old, to drive (or choose to drive less or not at all) and will provide a variety of housing choices for individuals and families in all life stages.
While we cannot know who will attend the charrettes we are working to include as broad a cross section of the community as possible. Our kick-off meeting included leaders from as many groups as possible. We hope that you will get the word out to your diverse communities and if that includes individuals who would benefit from translators we would love to coordinate with you to be sure that we are accommodating everyone who is interested in participating.
In promoting greater density, can we build in incentives for developers to plan (early on in the process) for material resources in the existing buildings that will inevitably be replaced? In other words, instead of allowing “traditional demolition,” let’s build in a process that keeps materials in the community and out of the landfills.
Answer: Specific regulations requiring or incentivising deconstruction rather than simple demolition generally fall into the building code or special funding programs rather than zoning, however, there are zoning options that could encourage more reuse of building materials. Density bonuses can be offered for projects that meet LEED Green Building standards, including reuse of material. Zoning can also help by allowing buildings to be modified rather than demolished. Because current zoning makes much of the existing small lot density in city neighborhoods illegal, individual owners have little incentive to make improvements, particularly on rental properties, when buildings are not able to be improved they deteriorate until larger developers consolidate multiple lots, demolish the existing buildings and build fewer larger buildings. Changing zoning to allow more flexible reuse of historic buildings can incentivise their reuse rather than demolition.
Need to get a better description of FBC using specific examples
How to protect rural areas from slow but steady residential development
Answer: This development occurs more often when subdivision of agricultural land is easier and more profitable than building in growth zones. Reducing this trend requires incentives such as transfer of development rights and minimum lot sizes designed to maintain viable agricultural parcels. When development that meets a community vision is easier than sprawl, developers will tend to build in areas designated for growth.
What are incentives for green building?
Answer: The most common incentive for green building is either a density bonus or expedited review process for projects that meet a designated standard such as LEED Certification or for including certain attributes such as rainwater harvesting or solar panels. These incentives are easy to integrate into the code and this rewrite is a great time to include them.
Sue Cosentini: What is the most contentious thing you came up against in Buffalo?
Answer: MPR, building heights, legacy commercial uses in traditional residential areas
Ellen McCollister: Irony of meeting location – prime corner of downtown in huge lot with a one-story building; uniqueness of Ithaca housing stock, 25% owner occupied, most rentals students, creates a huge challenge for placemaking. How do we rectify that? Most of our use is undergraduate housing rentals – what do we do with that fact?
Answer: Approximately half of the City of Ithaca’s citizens are college students and 75% of city residents are renters, yet new apartment buildings consistently face significant opposition and much of the city’s area is zoned with restrictions aimed at excluding or minimising renters and the student population. There is no way that zoning can stop homes from being rented to students. Zoning can, however allow the market for student oriented multifamily housing to be met, minimizing the spread of students into areas farther away from the universities. Zoning has attempted to make Ithaca less dense for decades, consequently very little development has occurred within the City of Ithaca since 1960 despite rising demand, rising prices and crisis level low vacancy rates. A new code can help get the kind of housing to meet different household demands in the locations that make the most sense.
David Kay: Neighborhood character – how do we maintain it in a way that allows some businesses, students, etc. that doesn’t collectively tip the neighborhood into something really different?
Answer: Because most of the City of Ithaca’s neighborhoods predate use segregating zoning they already incorporate mixed use and a broad variety of housing types. Legalizing the City’s historic neighborhood pattern where it has persisted and replicating it in new development is the key to maintaining and improving “character.” Reformed zoning will start by measuring the key attributes that create the unique character of our neighborhoods. Using the best of Ithaca as a model will ensure that new development is consistent with the surrounding context.
Fernando: Call ITCTC about transportation maps, use our resources!
Answer: Yes we will!!!
Esther Greenhouse: How do you design physical aspects of housing/neighborhoods for older adults in this context?
Answer: A compact, connected and complete neighborhood with a variety of housing options and many of the amenities a person needs in an average day is intrinsically more accessible for older people, younger people, people with disabilities and people who can’t afford to drive all the time. Incentives or requirements for universal design of some percentage of new units, or all new ground floor units can be included in the zoning.
Daniel Keough: “Granny flats” are a great way to invisibly increase density without detracting from the neighborhood’s character, unfortunately in many areas Ithaca’s minimum parking requirements prevent “granny flats” even if they are allowed based on other code requirements.
Answer: Using minimum parking requirements as a roundabout limitation on density leads to many perverse incentives including the situation you describe. Experts agree that minimum parking requirements are not necessary, lead to increased housing costs, prevent the reuse of historic structures and prevent fine grained infill development.
Anna Kelles: asked about outreach and ensuring that technical aspects can be made easily understood and that people will come together – need more diversity around this effort.
Answer: Buffalo had hundreds of meetings including conversations with key stakeholder and much larger community meetings. The community input established what people value at the neighborhood level. The Green Code process tapped into activist groups who organized people to attend. While the skeletal city staff couldn’t get that many people out, local refugee organizers and other groups got on board, to spread the word and include marginalized populations.
The Town has achieved consensus on their overall vision in their comprehensive plan, and the City is following close behind. Implementing the overall visions through new zoning will require significant community involvement. One of the huge benefits of the Form Ithaca: Zoning Reform Project, is that our team has secured outside funding for extensive outreach. The kick-off meeting included 60 leaders from a variety of organizations, we are counting on those people to share our message with their constituents. At the same time we are meeting with several additional groups each week between now and the first charrette. We are dedicated to making the zoning reform project as broad and inclusive as possible and we need your help. If you are a part of a group that would like us to present or come and answer questions please let us know.
Hollis: What are some problematic results that City’s see with a FBC?
Answer: Any code won’t be perfect from the first day of adoption – knowing that you might have a package of reforms and updates down the line is reasonable and expected. The City of Ithaca’s recent Collegetown Area Form Districts FBC is a great example, it was adopted earlier this year and has already been amended.
When a new vision is created and new zoning is writen many people are excited by sketches and renderings of future possibilities but are unaware of the time scale for urban development, change is slow and new or improved places take years or decades to grow from concept to reality even in hot real estate markets. FBCs in some cities have included unrealistic promises of neighborhood retail beyond what would actually be supported by market demand. Our team includes retail experts as well as urban designers who will tailor the plans for growth to the realities of business, we won’t suggest a new grocery store for a location if there isn’t enough market to support that use.
Kate Supron: What’s the scale of communities that FBC can be applied to? Village of Cayuga Heights?
Answer: The foundation of the transect based zoning is context sensitivity. It can be used to classify every type of land use from the most natural to the most urban, from the most dense city core to a nature preserve with no buildings or residents.
Communities of all sizes have adopted Form Based Codes, from the recently completed major cities of Cincinnati, Miami and Denver to many small towns and villages including:
- Bellevue, KY historic village with population under just under 6,000
- Sonoma, CA a wine country village of about 11,000 people on less than 3 square miles
- Azuza, CA the college town around Azuza Pacific University, population around 45,000.
Many other places start with a form based code for a specific area such as a greenfield parcel ripe for development, a downtown, a historic district, or a conservation area, the City of Ithaca followed this approach with the Collegetown Area Form Districts.
Cynthia: What is the role for places like Wegmans without eliminating that use?
Answer: Form Based Codes have a place for every kind of development, so if the community wants to prioritize more or less big box development, that can be coded for. Certainly no zoning update would make Wegmans suddenly disappear or force them to close, even if the area were zoned for single family homes (which is unlikely) there is no way that Wegmans, or any other big box for that matter could be forced out of their location as long as their building is standing. Big box buildings, however, are designed for a very short lifespan, frequently less than 20 years, so as a community we need to consider the best ways to locate and orient these types of uses and what should be around them. Because all of the big box development in and around Ithaca was designed with significantly more parking than they actually need there are opportunities to build affordable housing on the 20-30% of parking that literally never gets used and future buildings could be required to include housing above the retail space. Doing so could create affordable units within an easy walk of the modern amenities including Wegmans, Kohls, Walmart and Dunkin Donuts that many Ithacans deeply cherish. Better regulating the location and orientation of new buildings in the Southwest Corridor would improve access to the area for the many Ithacans who walk, bike and use transit without impeding access for drivers.
David Nutter: How can we turn sprawl into rural? How can we desuburbanize? If we create more housing outside the city core aren’t we just being more efficient at being inefficient?
Answer: It is very difficult to turn residential sprawl back into rural land in a community with a housing shortage, financially it just doesn’t make sense, there is no way to make a profit doing it. Ithaca will grow however, and it is possible for new growth to add a mixed use core to areas with some existing development to create new villages. If new greenfield development is allowed in locations that are disconnected and unwalkable then adding density is, as you said, “being more efficient at being inefficient” however if we direct enough density and mix into an area that it becomes compact, complete and it is also connected to surrounding neighborhoods then it is no longer sprawl. The East Hill Plaza Area has this kind of potential to become a real complete village center that is walkable to Cornell and other neighborhoods.