Community discusses future of Indian Creek woods

The future of the Indian Creek woods was discussed at a public meeting hosted by County Planning Commissioner Ed Marx yesterday (July 19, 2017) at the Museum of the Earth. More than 20 people, including Town of Ithaca and county officials and staff attended.

Marx opened the meeting by saying that county officials plan to have the 25.5 acres of public-owned woods, wetland and wildlife habitat “return to private ownership,” with the hope that ultimately there would be a “positive outcome.”

He presented three potential scenarios for the property, emphasizing that at this time there are no definite plans or proposals in play for any of these ideas:

1) To build a 2.5-acre development patterned after Eco Village that would include two four-story buildings with 35-40 units and parking.

2) A solar farm project that would clear a minimum of 9.7 acres of the property.

3) A “land swap” that would combine 11 acres of privately-owned land south of the woods with the woods, in which “development rights” would be exchanged so that the private land could be developed with easements imposed so that the woods would be preserved. He said perhaps 50 units of senior housing could be built on the southern portion of land, which is former farmland that is now cleared.

A current map of the properties, with the wetlands delineated, was distributed and is available at https://indiancreekneighborhood.com/maps/.

When asked why county officials did not approve ICNA’s 2016 proposal to purchase the property and create a land trust to preserve woods and wetlands in a natural state, Marx replied that while he could not speak for the legislators, he said the county had declared the land a “surplus” property and wished to obtain market value for it.

Comments from attendees included:

– Concerns about building directly on the wetlands and cutting down trees. That area of West Hill has seen increased flooding in recent years due to heavy rains.

– Increasing population density while West Hill has limited services, especially bus service.

– Since Indian Creek is an “isolated parcel” of land, a new community development there would lack “connectivity” with other parts of the neighborhood.

– A housing development on the site would “change the nature” of the semi-rural character of the area.

– Since the county did not receive an offer for the land during the year it was on the market, would the county reconsider ICNA’s offer to create a land trust? Marx replied that it is “possible to consider anything.”

– Questions about the true extent of the wetlands and the water table, and flooding potential.

– Roy Luft, who owns property south of the woods, talked about the need for housing for seniors in which they have ownership of their homes.

Marx said he and his staff would share information from the meeting with the county legislature, and that they would revisit the ICNA proposal. He said the county would continue to share information with town officials.

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