Indian Creek Neighborhood Association members gave a presentation and made comments to the Government Operations Committee on Nov. 24. We urged the county legislators to work with ICNA and the community “to create a model on creative land use that preserves green space and protects the lake’s watershed” in making decisions on what to do with the 25.5 acres of Indian Creek woods.
We also urged:
- that the legislators not make any decisions on selling the property until a complete environmental review is conducted,
- that the county Environmental Management Council (EMC) and Town of Ithaca Conservation Board be asked for recommendations,
- that the EMC lead a study to determine whether the current Indian Creek Unique Natural Area (UNA) should be extended to include the Indian Creek woods, and
- that the county Planning Department issue an open Request for Proposals to the public to ask for ideas for preserving and managing the woods and wetlands for low-impact public use like walking trails and educational programs.
Members of the committee, chaired by Dan Klein, did not directly address our proposals. Mr. Klein pressed our members to “make an offer” to buy the property.
We responded that property’s current property assessment of $340,000 was made in 2009 before its extensive wetlands were discovered. At this meeting, Jay Franklin, county director of assessment, said his office would “update the current assessment.”
County legislators did not respond to our request to meet with us in partnership to discuss best options, urging only that we rush to “make an offer” to purchase the property.
County Law Section 215, Local Law No. 3 of 1981 (http://tompkinscountyny.gov/adminmanual/01-07) states: “It is the intention of the Legislature, when significant natural, cultural, or historic resources are identified, to allow resource stewardship organizations an opportunity to review and investigate the property to evaluate both the resource(s) and potential methods of protecting the resource.
“If a significant resource is located on the property, the Legislature shall consider withholding the property from sale in order to allow organizations to perform legal, environmental, cultural, historic, and other reviews and investigations of the property. If an organization expresses an interest in taking title to the property, then the County may negotiate the sale of the land so that the significant resource shall be protected for the public good.”
We do not understand the county’s apparent rush to sell the land quickly. When the county was trying to sell the land to an out-of-state developer, we were told that the county needed money from the sale to help pay for the move of the health department to East Hill. However, at this meeting, Mike Lane, chair of the legislature, said that it was the sale of the land parcel with the Biggs B building on it that provided funds for the move.
We have asked the county legislators for time and a collaborative process to make the best decisions for the Indian Creek woods. The woods have existed for 100 years and are not going anywhere. Let us take the time to make wise decisions as good stewards of the land for future generations.
We will announce an ICNA meeting in the coming days.