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Ithaca Journal Guest Viewpoint

Land sale goes against vows for sustainability

By Linda Grace-Kobas

‘Our activities today will have a profound impact on society not only for us but for many generations to come.’

This quote from the re­cently released U.N. Inter­governmental Panel on Cli­mate Change brings home to us the urgency of dealing with our rapidly changing global environment.

At its Oct. 1 meeting, coun­ty legislators expressed con­cern about climate change and stressed the need for all of us to work toward sustain­ability. That is why their vote to sell 26 acres of mostly undeveloped public land known as the Biggs property on West Hill is baffling, since it contradicts the most basic rule of sustainability — pre­serving precious green space.

West Hill residents have voiced many objections to the sale based on the obvious negatives of this project: the density of development al­ready in place around Cayuga Medical Center, the increased traffic flow from hundreds of new residents, the need to expand bus services to ac­commodate additional resi­dents, and more. In the end, these are problems that will affect primarily those of us living on West Hill.

But the larger issue — the loss of 26 acres of green space along Indian Creek, which drains into Cayuga Lake — is one that affects everyone in this community.

Why did the county ap­prove the sale of public land to an out-of-state private in­vestment company? Where is the transparency of the fi­nancial outcomes?

Better Housing for Tomp­kins County is a partner in the sale. But only a small part of the currently proposed 60-townhouse development will be low income. The an­nounced plans do not show any future phases of devel­opment that NRP Properties LLC, may be planning on the rest of the acreage.

If it goes forward, this will be the first NRP development in New York; its others are in the Midwest and Florida.

The Village of Lansing on Sept. 23 voted to buy back a 23-acre parcel on East Hill from NRP and Better Hous­ing so that the land could remain undeveloped and be turned into a park. Can the Town of Ithaca do any less, given its stated commitment to sustainability?

We applaud and support Better Housing and its efforts in trying to find affordable housing for our fellow resi­dents. But, in the wake of recent findings about the urgency of addressing cli­mate change, its efforts should not focus on building up undeveloped properties. The whole world has to re­think its strategies. We cannot just build out anymore. We have to retrofit existing structures and be more cre­ative in how we look at the problem.

The county legislature, with the exception of four courageous and forward­thinking legislators, made a tremendous mistake in voting to sell our public land to a for-profit developer. It is up to the Town of Ithaca to undo its shortsightedness.

Ithacans like to proclaim themselves at the forefront of efforts to save our planet and preserve our environment. Now is our chance to prove it.

Grace-Kobas is an Ithaca resident.
 From the Ithaca Journal, October 8, 2013

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