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Old Posted Mar 6, 2013, 5:01 PM
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^ That disappointment is off set by this article (from the Ithaca Journal):

Tompkins estimates $250M in commercial developments through 2015
6:15 PM, Mar 5, 2013
Written by
Andrew Casler

ITHACA — The building boom of 2013 is under way, and Tompkins County estimates that 71 new building projects could be finished within two years.

“I haven’t seen this type of activity in the 17 years I’ve been with the county,” Tompkins County Director of Assessment Jay Franklin said. “I’m absolutely amazed at what is going on.”

Although the spurt in development will bring traffic congestion and tremoring earth from pile drivers, it will also be a boon to the tax base.

Franklin estimates that $250.5 million dollars in property value will be added to county assessment rolls by 2015. He said about 25 percent of the $250.5 million could be added to the 2013 assessment roll, 50 percent more could come in 2014, and the rest would affect tax rolls in 2015.

At the 2012 Tompkins County property tax rate, the developments could add $1.7 million in tax receipts to the county coffers. The county’s $6.4 billion taxable property-tax base generated $43.8 million in tax receipts for 2012.

Local governments will also benefit from a boost in property taxes, including school districts, towns and the City of Ithaca.

Another effect is that residential property values could increase, Franklin said, with so many large-scale commercial developers coming to Tompkins County.

Here’s a snapshot the county assessment department has taken of the big projects getting planned or now under construction:

• Four hotel projects with about 450 rooms;

• 27 apartment projects with about 2,100 new units;

• 18 mixed-residential-and-commercial projects;

• 516 lots for residences.

Housing shortage filled

County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson, D-Dryden, said the new developments fill a housing shortage.

“We’ve known for a long time that we have a very serious housing shortage in Tompkins County — a shortage at all levels, at all pricepoints, but especially at the low-to-moderate income level,” Robertson said. “While we would love to see more designated low-or-moderate income housing, it is really exciting to see the market responding to this need.”

The average vacancy rate for apartments in urban areas of Tompkins County was .5 percent in December 2011, according to a study by the Danter Company, which analyzes market demographics. Robertson and Fred Bonn, director of Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that’s proof of very low supply.

Tompkins County hotels are also in high demand, Bonn said. He said hotels in the county outperform other Upstate communities, and the hotel room occupancy rate was 60.1 percent in 2012.

Robertson was quick to point out that the increase in tax base doesn’t necessarily mean that property tax rates will fall.

“It’s more than a two-sided equation,” Robertson said. Commercial and residential developments can actually increase property taxes, because sprawling development can cause new need for infrastructure like sewer, water and roads. Police and fire services can also be stretched thinner.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in favor of all developments no matter what it is,” Robertson said, but a great deal of the projects are in already-developed areas.

“This is also very consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan,” she said. “You’re seeing a very efficient use of infrastructure ”


The City of Ithaca will see the greatest amount of development, Franklin estimates. The towns of Ithaca and Lansing are second.

City of Ithaca Transportation Engineer Tim Logue said some construction will cause detours, but most will come with closed traffic lanes and sometimes slower commutes.

“It depends on where you’re going, and what time of day you’re going at, and what streets and what projects are going to impact that,” he said.

There won’t be much room for widening roads after the projects are finished and the city has added housing capacity, Logue said.

The Town of Ithaca, however, has some room for beefed up infrastructure, according to officials.

“If they need a turn lane, they have to put a turn lane in,” Town of Ithaca Director of Public Works Jim Weber said.

Initially, it’s the developer’s responsibility to improve infrastructure that their buildings could overload, Weber said. Without developers building up infrastructure, the town may choose not to approve their plans.

“The town would theoretically take over long-term maintenance of that (infrastructure),” he said.

Developers that increase the value of land within the town should cover those long-term maintenance costs with the property taxes they pay, Weber added.

Town Director of Planning Sue Ritter said it’s also hard to say what the finished developments will do to traffic because they’re spread across the town and serve a variety of purposes.

“We’re hoping that we would locate development in locations where people do not solely have to rely on the car,” she said.

Some of the projects, like senior housing or additions to Ithaca College, won’t weigh heavy on rush hour traffic, Ritter said.

To fix congested city traffic, it’s important to improve the traffic system. Logue is focused on well-timed traffic signals, encouraging people to bike and walk to work, and working with businesses to spread out peak road usage times.

Timing traffic signals is the No. 1 strategy, Logue said, but the process is hindered because the city doesn’t own all of its roads and the process is very labor intensive.

“That makes timing traffic signals downtown particularly tricky,” he said. “Any tweak you make at one intersection is likely to impact two or three or even four more, depending on where it is.”

Logue added that many changes could come to the city in the next few years, and there may be some negative impacts on traffic, but the city thinks those projects are good for Ithaca.

“Part of our goal is to encourage development while minimizing those negative impacts,” he said. “Hang in there, things will always be a little bit rough during construction at times, but things get better soon after that.”

Here's a summary:

Projects proposed or under way
The number of major commercial and residential projects under way, by town, that have been identified by the Tompkins County Department of Assessment. Smaller projects are not included in the summary.
• City of Ithaca: 30
• Caroline: 2
• Danby: 1
• Dryden:1
• Ithaca: 18
• Lansing: 18
• Newfield: 1
• Total: 71
Source: Tompkins County Department of Assessment
Types of development
• Apartments: $90 million
• Bed & Breakfast: $1.5 million
• Hotel: $35 million
• Manufacturing: $6 million
• Mixed use: $90 million
• Office: $2 million
• Restaurants: $1 million
• Retail $5 million
• Senior
Apts: $20 million
Source: Tompkins County Department of Assessment

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